Premier League to blame for England U21 failings
England will never be leading contenders in international competitions if the Premier League remains in its current state
After a disappointing European Championships for England's much-coveted Under 21s, including players such as Wilfried Zaha and Danny Rose, much of the blame has been directed towards the coach Stuart Pearce.
Though, admittedly, Pearce's tactics were unimaginative it is hard to lay the blame solely with him. The players themselves must accept some responsibility, as well as the Premier League and the F.A. Also, perhaps part of the reason they failed to live up to expectations was the fans.
Firstly, it is time for a new manager to take the helm of the young Lions. Though I cannot deny that Pearce had been successful prior to this year's tournament, having led the side to the final of the European Championships in 2009, I feel that perhaps it is time to go in a new direction.
This tournament the side lacked any attacking threat when in and around the opposition penalty area and struggled to keep possession, even against an average-looking Israel side.
Furthermore, the primary role of the Under 21 side is to produce players for the full England side. Not only is the brand of football being played a particularly poor one that will not prepare them for the full international scene but few players have actually emerged from several games with the Under 21s and established themselves as a full international in recent years.
Jordan Henderson has amassed 27 caps for Pearce's side but is yet to establish himself in the full squad despite five senior caps. Chris Smalling has earned 14 but again is yet to fully make his mark.
However, it is not as though Pearce had a squad of world-beaters at his mercy. Although some of the players in the squad have a huge amount of potential they failed to deliver in Israel.
The dazzling Wilfried Zaha looked very average and Danny Rose, a star performer whilst on loan at Sunderland this season, failed to make many telling contributions, although his effort was evident on occasions.
This could not be said of the whole squad. All the players failed to produce performances to the standard of which they are capable.
The F.A. and the Premier League must also heed this warning of things to come unless they change their ways as well.
A number of the players on show for England - including Connor Wickham, Josh McEachran, Andre Wisdom and Nathan Delfouneso - have shown potential in abundance in the past but are not being given first-team opportunities at their clubs.
This is because of the huge pressure placed on managers to deliver top performances in the short-term, therefore expensive foreign signings are being made to match the chairmen's demands.
There is no doubt that, given time, these players could perform and flourish; however, the financial incentives offered by the Premier League encourage clubs to spend money to achieve the highest possible finish.
The sad truth is in the statistics. A measly 2.28% of minutes played in the Premier League this season was made up of English Under-21s, compared to Germany's 6.22% and France's 7.32%, according to research by BBC Sport.
In terms of total number of English players of any age in the top flight England again comes out worse than Italy, Germany Spain and France, with little over a third of top flight players being English in contrast to Bundesliga's two-thirds.
Under these conditions, English youngsters are never going to prosper and we will never compete at international level. Perhaps it is time to introduce restrictions on the number of foreign players at each club, such as in Russia and Spain, but the financial strength of the big clubs are likely to make this almost impossible.
Maybe it is our fault. Maybe, as fans, we are being unrealistic. Should we really expect a team containing a Sunderland benchwarmer (Connor Wickham, just to clarify), a Leeds United centre-back who has never played in the Premier League (Tom Lees, although he is not the only one) and a man who has spent a season - albeit an impressive one - on loan at Watford to compete with the likes of Isco, De Gea and Tello?
Perhaps we just need to accept that we have a star-studded domestic league, for which we should be grateful, but that because of this we will never compete with the best in Europe.
So maybe we shouldn't be complaining about what a catastrophic failure this was. We should be celebrating the fact that we even got there in the first place. And come next year in Brazil, anything beyond the initial Group Stages will be a momentous achievement - providing we actually qualify. We, as fans, are just being unrealistic with our dreams of semi-finals. That is the sad truth.
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