England under-21 boss Gareth Southgate has named his provisional squad for this summer’s European Championship in the Czech Republic.
There are no real surprises amongst the squad named, although Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Wolves striker Benik Afobe have both received their first call-ups.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane is one of the few players in the squad with senior international experience. The youngster has enjoyed a stellar campaign at club level.
However, the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Luke Shaw have all been omitted from the squad, despite the fact that they are all eligible to play in the tournament.
It seems that the under-21 boss has succumbed to pressure from club managers not to select some of their top players.
Club vs. Country
From the day that international football was invented there was conflict between clubs and national teams over player’s availability. In recent years it seems to have got worse, as players become bigger and more expensive assets to their clubs.
A lot of players want to play for their country, at whatever level, but their club bosses decide to protect their asset, which I suppose is just looking after the club.
At the end of the day the club pay their wages, but it only seems to be Premier League bosses that decide to deny their players the opportunity to play for their countries. Some of the above players may want to play at this summer’s European Championship, but their club boss wants to protect them from injury and burnout for next season.
England have struggled to make a major impact on any big tournament in the last 20 years. Some would argue that is because underage tournaments are not taken seriously by the country.
The England under-21 team particularly have suffered with players going straight into the senior squad rather than playing for the under-21 team first. That means the under-21 squad can at times have the quality of the squad diluted.
Other countries have success at big tournaments in recent years because they take the underage competitions seriously. Their FA’s basically insist on selecting the best players and the clubs comply because they feel it is in the best interests of the national team.
Spain and Germany are big examples of countries that have done well in the underage competitions and had success at senior level because their players have developed a winning mentality at international level.
Maybe the reason that English clubs do not take the underage tournaments seriously is because a lot of the clubs are owned by foreign investors, who have nothing to gain by releasing their best young players for an underage tournament.
At times it almost seems that the England under-21 boss, in this case Gareth Southgate, gets bullied by the club bosses. He should be allowed to pick the best team of players available and eligible to play in this summer’s tournament.
He cannot be bullied into picking a weakened group of players and then pilloried if the team fails to be successful in the Czech Republic.
If England picked their best group of players eligible to play at the European Championship then they would have to be considered as favourites to win the trophy. The players being excluded now have quite a lot of first football behind them.
Other countries will send players who have probably played in their senior sides and who have no problem in dropping back down into the under-21 squad to play in a big tournament, so why can’t England?
Looking at the squad that Southgate has picked it has to be considered a relatively strong squad. The likes of John Stones, Saido Berahino and Carl Jenkinson have all played regular first team football this season, while Will Hughes and Benik Afobe have been two of the standout performers in the Championship.
The squad is strong, but I am sure the squad would have been even stronger with the likes of Sterling, Barkley and Oxlade-Chamberlain in it.
Hopefully England can still have a big impact on the tournament, despite the absence of some big players who could have really strengthened the squad.
Should England pick their strongest squad for the under-21 European Championship?