Last night, England did what many have not in the past – defeated the German Under 21 side. They have won all but one of their last 7 games, with a 3-2 defeat to France the only blip. This summer see’s them compete in the Under 21 Championships, and after this win – hopes are high. For Gareth Southgate, the worry is Premier League teams pulling players out for summer tours all over the world – so the question has to be ‘Are Premier League teams costing the national team dearly?’
Roberto Martinez has said he is not keen on Ross Barkley going, while Raheem Sterling is pretty much ruled out – Southgate already confident he will stay at home. Harry Kane may well miss out all because of a friendly in Australia 3 weeks before it starts. Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain could also sit it out, if Arsene Wenger refuses to let them go. Luke Shaw and Phil Jones, both of Man Utd – could go this summer, but again could be pulled out for tours that the club are taking part in.
Now I may be being a little harsh, as most clubs let their players go. The likes of Saido Berahino, Will Hughes, James Ward-Prowse and many more seem to be free to compete – as they should be, but it’s the bigger clubs who believe these players should miss out on playing for their country for the sake of the club’s money-spinning friendlies that may well stipulate the best players are brought along. The ever believable Harry Redknapp once said that he had players come to him at Tottenham to ask if he could get them out of friendlies, but clubs stopping/pulling players out of squads is criminal – it should be down to the player if he wants to play or not.
Recently Tom Ince stated he did not want to be picked, in order to get his club career back on track – fair enough. Danny Rose said similar, and even that he may represent Jamaica – again fair enough, with the amount of left backs ahead of him in the pecking order he might be better off! If players come out and give a reason why, rather than hide behind their club who give the usual “he has a knock” line that is so often used these days, it would really help. Ince has got a lot of stick, but at least he has been honest.
If England take a full strength squad – they could realistically win this. Chamberlain, Wilshere, Chambers, Barkley, Shaw, Kane, Stones etc – that’s the making of a very good team that could represent England for years to come. What’s the point in having one or two of them on the bench for the senior side against Ireland and Slovenia this summer when all of them could be in the Czech Republic, forming a strong bond as a team. Roy Hodgson has already said this is likely to be the case, and he would prefer it, which is very good to see.
You look at Germany and Spain for example – all those world-class players currently doing oh so well were all in the same youth teams, using the same tactics, gelling as a team. Like you see with club football, keep introducing new players and they take time to adapt to the way the others play. Consistently training with the same players from a young age will help the mental link between all players. The problem England have is a young player has half a good season and are immediately chucked into the deep end at senior level, given a few games, don’t do so well then go back. Andy Carroll is a prime example.
The other main issue with Premier League teams is that only around 30% of the players getting regular game time are English. That limits how much match practice they get, as well as match fitness. At lower levels, say in the Championship – you see Will Hughes, Nathan Redmond, Ben Gibson and Patrick Bamford (amongst many) get regular game time, performing at that level and that form passes to the international stage. Then take a look at some of the lads who go back and forth between Senior and U21’s – Chamberlain, Barkley, Chambers, Shaw, Stones etc – not getting regular game time, and in the little they do get they are not doing brilliantly, which you can see passes across.
I think what needs to happen is all managers in the PL + the FA/Roy Hodgson need to sit down together and discuss the best option – how to proceed from here on in, and how the national team can benefit. Get groups of young players in each section (16’s, 17’s etc) and keep them together. Set a formation, tactics and so on. Get everyone on the same page, reading from the same hymn sheet. If everyone is in the loop, and get’s their opinions, idea’s and concerns across – it could be the best thing to happen in the England setup for a long time!