As has been well documented already, England’s Under 21 team failed miserably at the European Championships in Israel, finishing bottom of their group and not scoring a single goal from open play.
All the hype before the tournament was centred on this formidable English defence which hadn’t conceded a goal in 889 minutes until Lorenzo Insigne breached it with a free kick.
We only need to look at the recent success of Germany and Spain, who have won the 2009 and 2011 edition of this tournament respectively to see how success at this level can lead to success at full international level.
Of those that travelled with the squad, only five played regular Premier League football last season (Nathaniel Clyne, Steven Caulker, Danny Rose, Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey), which points to an obvious lack of players to choose from and a real lack of experience at the highest level. Approximately 60% of the Premier League players nowadays come from overseas, so there is a clear lack of players for Roy Hodgson to call up, never mind Stuart Pearce, but instead of remedying this situation things only seem like they’re going to get worse.
Of the top clubs in England, aside from the signing of Wilfried Zaha, the only young English player that has been linked with the ‘top clubs’ is Luke Shaw. All we hear about is the latest foreign star teams are going to sign such as Edinson Cavani, Robert Lewandowski and Cesc Fabregas. How does the FA expect the U21 side, never mind the actual England team to be successful if a player’s path to the first team is blocked?
The likes of Manchester City and Chelsea should be using the rumoured £50 million they are willing to spend on Cavani on their youth system instead to try to get the best possible coaches to coach the best young English players available.
Take the Bundesliga for example. The Bundesliga League Association President Dr Reinhard Rauball recently stated that: “The clubs invest more than 80 million euro annually in their football academies. This lays the foundation for an ever increasing number of homegrown Bundesliga stars for the fans to look forward to.” In addition 58% of all professionals registered in the Bundesliga are German Nationals. No wonder German football has such a bright future, despite also being knocked out in the first round of the U21 tournament.
The introduction of Financial Fair Play should help reduce the vast amounts clubs are spending on foreign stars so maybe then they might return to nurturing their on youth. Also the construction of the St George's Park National Football Centre which will be the base for all coaching and development work for the FA will hopefully produce the necessary talent to take England back to the top.
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