The national team, at all levels, has come in for a lot of flak recently and I wonder if our youth academy is being under-valued.
It is statistically England’s finest, producing more England internationals than any other club whilst last year an independent audit ranked it as the best in the country.
Just recently, our youth team won the NextGen Series – the youth equivalent of the Champions League. These feats go ignored when other nations take advantage.
Olympiacos, for instance – who we defeated in the quarter-finals – have six of their squad who are current Greece U19 internationals with a further starring for the U21s.
Not a single player of ours has been selected for recent England U19 squads; a team who failed to qualify for this summer’s European Championships.
Even our very own Jack Grealish was named Ireland’s U17s Player of the Year after his strong performances in the competition.
I’m not sure what the current criteria is to be selected for one of England’s youth teams, or indeed for a competition, but it doesn’t appear to be very effective or consistent.
The U20s are yet to win a game in the current World Cup, where the likes of Callum Robinson, Joshua Webb and Jordan Graham could have perhaps been included.
Last year they were involved in England U17s’ Algarve Tournament win whilst they also played their part in the NextGen trophy triumph, with Robinson particularly impressive.
Surely they are the sort of players required for a competition like this as they enter with that all-important winning mentality.
Perhaps players ahead of them have been chosen for their handful of first-team appearances whilst on loan in the lower leagues?
But this ethos of including players with first-team appearances doesn’t appear to carry through to U21 level.
England limped out of the European Championships failing to pick up a point or indeed muster up a single goal from open play, but our players weren’t considered.
Nathan Delfouneso was our only inclusion, although the fact he was amongst the squad after a failed season with Blackpool only heightens the issues with the selection process.
With a youthful cluster of English players, our youngsters should be ideal if it was first-team experience they were searching for.
Yet despite over 150 career league appearances and an integral role with us last season, Ashley Westwood has never been capped at any youth level and was ignored once more.
Nathan Baker is another one. In the squad selected, only Danny Rose and Jordan Henderson played more games in the Premier League than him, yet he was ignored.
Of the four centre-backs used, Leeds’ Tom Lees was the only regular for his club. Steven Caulker and Andre Wisdom made sporadic appearances.
Craig Dawson’s only football was a three-month loan spell at Bolton, so if it’s first-team experience that’s a necessity, why has Baker missed out?
There isn’t a balanced formula for selections.
The Premier League recently introduced a new scheme (EPPP) to promote the development of home-grown players, but why isn’t this being followed through to internationals?
At the moment the FA are overlooking academies at U20 level downwards and ignoring first-team football with the U21s. It’s as if they’re trying to be awkward.
This lack of organisation in the system is why players like Ciaran Clark – England captain at two youth levels – have switched nationalities.
The senior team has been a frustration for many years but it will only improve in the long-term if young players from the bands below are utilized in the right manner.
To ignore the country’s leading academy and European champions, not forgetting our influx of young English players in the first team, is a little odd to say the least.