It has been evident for some time that England are lagging behind in terms of the production of young stars, many feel that England do not seem to produce the same caliber of young players as their European rivals such as Spain and Germany to name but two. This realisation has been hammered home repeatedly as fans have watched the same aging names such as Gerrard, Lampard, Terry, Johnson etc bested in major tournaments by young, fresh, sharp opposition.
There has been no better example of this than the 2010 world cup knock out stage match against Germany in Bloemfontein, where a stagnant England side featuring the ageing legs of Barry, Upson and Heskey were utterly outclassed by the lightning German counter attacks made up of young stars who had just burst onto the international scene, players who have now gone on to become world renowned names like Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos.
So where does the problem lie? England are clearly a talented football nation, home of the premier league and some of the best coaching in the world and it would be very unfair to say that over the last few years we have not produced a few very talented young players. In the last five years for example we have seen the emergence of Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Daniel Sturridge and more recently very exciting prospects like Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana. Players that you could argue break the mould of the ‘typical English footballer’. Bringing excitement, speed, flair and fearlessness to the England set up, which is much needed.
However where I feel we go wrong in this country in regard to bringing through young players is the way a youngster with potential is treated in the national set up. Unlike in Spain for example where we have seen a group of young players at U17 level including the now well known Isco, Thiago , Koke, Azpilicueta and Illarramendi brought up together as a side, progressing up to U21 as a unit giving them international tournament experience and building the cohesion of the team, in England we seem to jump the gun and a young player with potential is thrust into the first team immediately and labelled ‘the next….’ and appear to shoulder the countries expectation. I feel that patience would be a solution to England’s international problems, allow a young talented side to gain relevant experience with minimal pressure and to grow together as opposed to picking it apart, fast tracking the top players and taking the core of our young teams out whilst gambling as to whether or not such players with a lack of experience could cut it in a World Cup for example. With our U17 side having just won the European Championship perhaps this theory could work for us just in time for World Cup 2018.