In the weeks before Brazil opens its arms to the footballing world, England fans can cheer at least one Championship triumph this summer.
For the second tournament in a row, the nation’s under-17 team has clinched tournament glory, beating the Netherlands to secure victory. The fact that this victory came courtesy of a flawless penalty shootout performance should boost hopes no end.
Yet in the context of the current homegrown player crisis, the victory appears to have been treated warily, almost as a red herring rather than a precursor to greater success on a grander stage.
With many of these England players yet to make a senior debut, this cautious attitude is understandable. However, one would hope that this obvious sustained success at youth level might point to the early shoots of recovery for the academy systems in this country.
Amongst the winners, Newcastle’s Adam Armstrong and Patrick Roberts of Fulham have already made first-team bows for their club, and the likes of Izzy Brown and Dominick Solanke from Chelsea have been held in the highest regard.
It is also far too early to write off many of the 2010 tournament winners. Indeed in Ross Barkley, that team has representation at this year's World Cup and in Jack Butland possesses a second full international and England’s youngest ever goalkeeper. Nathaniel Chalobah and Andre Wisdom are also two youngsters earmarked for future recognition with the senior side, should their encouraging progress in the Championship continue at a higher level.
It’s promising that, of the 11 starters from that final, only Bruno Pilatos - the injury-plagued right back - is not contracted to a Premier League club. Whilst realists consider it unlikely that the likes of the once luminescent Josh McEachran, Will Keane and Connor Coady, from Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool respectively, will make the breakthrough at their current clubs, there is still an abundance of homegrown talent lurking just below the muddied waters of the Premier League that needs just an encouraging nudge towards the surface.
This season, Mauricio Pochettino, Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez have demonstrated that offering British youngsters a chance to play will not end in disaster. In overcoming the main issue of all this clear potential being wasted, England must ensure that each player - at every level and across every team - is able to excel in a system that reaps rewards.
A key attribute of many of England’s young talents is their physicality. Barkley has demonstrated his powerful, destructive surges throughout the season, most notably against Newcastle.
Connor Wickham has long been lauded for his battering-ram presence and has begun to marry this to greater application and diligence. Similarly, the current crop is brimming with pace and physicality that makes them unstoppable.
Much as the technically-gifted Spanish thrived in a system based around their ball retention, England must implement a style, from youth level, that embraces the natural physicality of our youngest players and channels it constructively and progressively.
Far from turning England into a latter day Greece, the opportunity to marry the brilliance and elegance of Roberts to the power of Solanke at a higher level, in due course, can generate a terrifying, high-octane brand of football that is uniquely British and capable of implanting an identity upon our most cherished of national past-times.
The sheer electricity of Liverpool’s attack has been awe-inspiring, and with a quartet of English players doing the damage, this style of attractive, athletic, aggressive football could become a national template for years to come.
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