Jack Cork has advised England’s all-conquering Under-17 stars to seek exposure to senior football as soon as possible.
The Three Lions claimed glory at the Under-17 World Cup in India thanks to a stunning 5-2 win over Spain in last weekend’s final.
Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden was named player of the tournament after scoring twice as Steve Cooper’s side came back from 2-0 down, while Chelsea provided four of the starting XI to City’s three.
Some observers have pointed to the potential problem of the two amply resourced Premier League heavyweights being home to the cream of England’s young talent, with opportunities to break into their respective first teams likely to be limited.
Cork, one of the standout performers in Burnley’s impressive start to 2017-18 after joining from Swansea City in a £10million deal, has represented England at every level from Under-16 to Under-21 and found himself at this crossroads as a youngster on Chelsea’s books a decade ago.
The 28-year-old spent time on loan with Bournemouth, Scunthorpe United, Southampton, Watford, Coventry City and his current club before joining the Saints on a permanent basis in 2011.
“It’s about games, you need to get out on the stage and play games,” Cork said.
“It can be daunting at first, at 18 or 19, but for me it’s the best way to do it. It’s good for young players.
“You’re not really going to get the first-team opportunities unless you’re someone like Foden, who has the press around him and the manager [City boss Pep Guardiola] bigging him up at every opportunity.
“For me I’d say to the young players ‘go and get as many games as you can while you’re young’ and if it gets to a point where you’re still not playing games in your first team then maybe look to leave.”
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Cork also featured for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics but full international honours have remained elusive.
England boss Gareth Southgate spoke earlier this year of being light on midfield options, with the World Cup in Russia to come at the end of the season.
Cork is realistic over his chances of making the breakthrough but hopes continued fine form from seventh-place Burnley – who face his old side Southampton on Saturday – can see some of their English contingent follow presently injured goalkeeper Tom Heaton in being recognised at the highest level.
“Maybe one day if we keep the form going maybe one of us can get in the squad,” he added, having namechecked defenders Ben Mee, James Tarkowski and Matthew Lowton.
“Players like Jonjo Shelvey, he’s probably one of the most talented English players on the ball, passing wise. He’s got a chance as well.
“It is tough to get in if you’re not at one of the bigger teams. You hope you can but it’s difficult.
“I don’t know if I’m getting old or something – I’m knocking on 30 in a couple of years. We’ll see. I’d love to play for England, but [it’s the] manager’s choice, isn’t it?”
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