England's Under-21s will not do anything until they pick their best availabe players

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Let the inquest begin into the state of the national game: money, players, managers, passion and aliens are just some of the things that are discussed, turned over and dissected in order to try and come up with some sort of answer as to why we are so rubbish at major tournaments.

Even though there are reasons around those subjects that lead to some senior players not getting called up, it is that, for many people, the crux of the matter.

Ross Barkley

The Everton star is the main one for me considering his status. He’s 21 and is not established in the seniors. How many more of you were disappointed seeing pictures of Barkley living it up in Ibiza while England Under-21s sweated their socks off in Czech Republic?

He didn’t have the best of seasons this one just gone, but when you think of the way he glides past players at top flight level, he should have been out there using his immense talent to pull off these feats at the tournament against arguably lesser players.

Raheem Sterling

Again, same as Barkley in terms of having the ability rip apart opponents in Czech Republic. Is actually younger than Barkley, but is a more prominent feature of Roy Hodgson’s plans, so is seen to be unfit for selection.

Jack Wilshere

Qualifies despite being 23. And despite being England’s best player for the past two internationals and having 28 caps to his name, he could still have been selected as he has not had a regular run of games due to injury, which is why he does not have that ‘feel’ of being ‘established’.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Has featured in senior squads for years now, but is certainly not a guaranteed starter, whether he is fit or not. A similar player to Barkley, strong on the ball, can get past players, has a powerful shot on him, and could have proved valuable for Gareth Southgate’s side.

Jonjo Shelvey

Now here’s a player who is seldom mentioned when talk of international football pops up. He is nearly two months younger than Wilshere and quite possibly one of the most underrated players and unsung heroes in the Premier League. His incisive passing and link-up play would likely have worked a treat at the Under-21 Euros, especially considering England’s predictably poor ball retention.

The subject of whether eligible players in England’s senior squad should be put in the Under-21 squad is a contentious one. Most media outlets and punters feel everyone who can legally play for them should.

Despite Harry Kane’s great season there was never any question of him not going as he had only been called up to England’s last two senior squads, whereas the likes of Wilshere and Chamberlain have been on the scene for a few years now.

Admittedly, there are issues, not just regularity of selection, but also injuries when it comes to Wilshere and Chamberlain, so a summer tournament that runs into pre-season training would be a risk to their well being.

Sterling can be a world-beater on his day, but he failed to deliver in the last campaign, so there is a question whether he should even be a starter for the senior team.

Barkley was injured for a period last season, but could have been in the squad at least as that is all he is for Hodgson's side. And Shelvey for one reason or another does not get a look-in. Has he secretly requested to not be selected? Or is his continental style too much for England to handle?

Either way, something has got to change. Taking your best team would be a start.

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Gareth Southgate
England Football

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