Everton midfielder Ross Barkley and Tottenham winger Andros Townsend could become the latest in a long line of players to turn out for the England national side in recent years if they feature against Moldova or Ukraine in England’s World Cup qualifiers over the next few days.
The uncapped duo are only just making a start to their careers as professional footballers and are relatively inexperienced at the highest level.
Barkley, 19, impressed in Everton’s opening game against Norwich this season but has only a handful of Premier League appearances to his name and spent last season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United in the Championship.
Townsend, 22, has yet to cement his place in the Tottenham first team despite impressing against Swansea in August but did gain valuable Premier League experience towards the end of last season at QPR. Like Barkley however, Townsend is inexperienced at the highest level and has spent most of his career to date on loan in the lower leagues of English football.
The inexperience of these two players again begs the question - ‘Is it too easy to gain a call-up to the England side’?
Many people argue that over time – particularly over this last decade, the honour of playing for England has been devalued and that it is now too easy for players to get into the England squad and achieve an international cap.
Over the last decade the list of players to feature in the full England squad appears endless. Roy Hodgson’s predecessor Fabio Capello called up 77 players into the squad during his three year reign with a staggering 63 of them becoming capped internationals. The likes of Matt Jarvis and Jay Bothroyd – who had limited experience of football in the top flight - were selected and have not been seen in an England shirt since.
Many players to make the England squad in recent years have not even been appearing regularly for their club sides before making the leap into international football. In countries such as Spain, Germany and France, players have to be playing regularly and performing at the top level on a consistent basis before being considered for international recognition, not just putting in the occasional good performance over the course of a long season.
There will of course be those cases where a special talent does emerge and bursts onto the scene like Wayne Rooney or Jack Wilshere, but as a general rule players should be made to work for their place in the internationals setup. It should be imperative for all England internationals to be putting in consistent good performances over a prolonged period of time and playing regular first team football for their clubs in one of Europe’s top divisions.
Since Capello’s departure; Frazier Campbell, Martin Kelly, Ryan Bertrand, Jack Butland, Jake Livermore, Jonjo Shelvey, Steven Caulker, Carl Jenkinson, Raheem Sterling and Wilfred Zaha have all become full England internationals despite limited experience in the Premier League.
Since making their England debuts, many of these players have struggled to force their way back into the side, and Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend could be the latest additions to this list.
It cannot be disputed that both Barkley and Townsend are extremely talented players and great professionals that certainly have a future in the game at a high level, but it would surely be beneficial for England’s hottest prospects to be given more time to develop in the Premier League – or another top division before taking to the international arena.
Players should be allowed time to learn what their game is about and gain experience of top level competitive football so that they are fully prepared to make that step up to the England team and thrive in international football.
Players should have to do something truly outstanding to earn their place in the international setup. If they have worked harder to get there then they will learn to appreciate what an honour and privilege it is to play for your country, and the results will begin to show.
If however, Barkley and Townsend do get on the field in the next two games, I hope that they can make that step up and cement their place in the England for years to come.
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