Thursday, June 8, 2023

Under twenty-one side makes England’s problem clear

Graham Fisher in Editorial, General Soccer News 11 Jun 2011


Would be great if they were involved

The future of any international football team should be fairly clear from it’s under twenty-one team. The Germany team that did so well and impressed everyone at last year’s World Cup contained over half of their under twenty-one team that had won the previous year’s European Championships. All of those players were first team regulars at their clubs and were proud to be playing for their country at the younger age group and at full international level.


A look at England’s under twenty-one team at the current European Championships shows that we are still a long way away from getting it right. There are some damn good players in the squad, but we are light years away from where the Germans were last time out.

Jack Wilshire, Kieran Gibbs, Andy Carroll and Micah Richards are all too tired or injured to take part in the tournament. I wonder if that would be the case if it was a club tournament or the full international team?


Then we have two players, Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson, who were transferred for a combined total of over £35 million in the past week. They were first team regulars at Blackburn and Sunderland, but will they be at Manchester United and Liverpool? FA director of development Sir Trevor Brooking is not so sure. He told the BBC,

“There is going to be competition for places. With anything like that will they get regular first-team football? Let’s wait and see and we wish them well. Phil is one we think could be challenging to get into the seniors like Jordan has already done. The fees put a bit of pressure on them but of course, like any young English player, we would like them to get regular first-team football so we hope they are going to play regularly. At Blackburn and Sunderland they were playing every week when they were fit and that’s really important for their development. It is a challenge. You look at Manchester United and you have Phil Jones going there, you’ve also got Chris Smalling who is trying to battle away to try and get in the side. He’s had a couple of games at right-back but again our two England Under-21 central defenders will now be at Manchester United.”


A look through the rest of the squad will explain the problem that English international football has once and for all.

The three goalkeepers are all from Championship clubs and are not all first team regulars anyway. The six defenders are all with Premier League clubs but of them, James Tompkins is the only one, apart from Phil Jones, who plays regularly and his team were relegated.

There are nine midfielders and of those seven are with Premier League clubs but only Muamba of Bolton and Henderson play every week. The four strikers include three from the top division. Two of them were regulars this season but on clubs with whom they were on loan.


In other words, of the twenty-two players in the squad, assuming that Jones and Henderson will not be regulars next season, it is likely that only two will be automatic choices in the country’s top division.

That will not be the case for any other team at the tournament.


Graham Fisher



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