Fu­ture gloom de­spite Cup win

The Star Early Edition - - SOCCER -

LON­DON: Eng­land’s newly crowned Un­der 20 World Cup win­ners woke to backpage head­lines ac­claim­ing a golden gen­er­a­tion yes­ter­day and con­grat­u­la­tory tweets from a fu­ture Bri­tish king and one of the coun­try’s great­est sport­ing heroes.

But de­spite the plau­dits from FA Pres­i­dent Prince Wil­liam and Ge­off Hurst, hat-trick scorer in the 1966 World Cup fi­nal, a spot­light was shone on the dif­fi­culty most will face in even se­cur­ing a club game once mem­o­ries of Sun­day’s 1-0 win over Venezuela fade.

Eng­land’s two stand­out per­form­ers, Do­minic Solanke, who scored four goals and won the Golden Ball, and Fred­die Woodman, who made a su­perb penalty save in the fi­nal, are among those strug­gling to break through.

Solanke, 19, will join Liver­pool on July 1 af­ter re­ject­ing a new con­tract at Chelsea out of frus­tra­tion at the lack of first-team op­por­tu­ni­ties. Ten years at the club where he came through the Academy yielded just one first-team ap­pear­ance 17 min­utes as a sub­sti­tute in a Cham­pi­ons league game against Mari­bor. But Solanke may also strug­gle to play un­der Liver­pool man­ager Juer­gen Klopp who was yes­ter­day linked with a move for Monaco’s 18-yearold striker Kylian Mbappe. At An­field, Solanke will join up with two other un­der 20 stars, Ovie Ejara and Sheyi Ojo, who re­main on the first­team fringes.

The pic­ture is sim­i­lar for Woodman. Last sea­son the 20-year-old New­cas­tle keeper was loaned out to Scot­tish club Kil­marnock.

“I am not sure what will hap­pen at New­cas­tle,” Woodman told The Daily Tele­graph. “I am just wait­ing for them to tell me when I am back in pre-sea­son. I am a New­cas­tle player and my goal is to play for New­cas­tle one day.”

Alan Shearer ques­tioned how many of the side, who de­liv­ered the coun­try’s first World Cup win at any level for 51 years, will see ac­tion in a league packed with for­eign tal­ent and gov­erned by short-ter­mism.

“How many top-flight man­agers will have been given a man­date to blood them and make them part of their first team,” Shearer wrote in The Sun. “How many man­agers will have had the pa­tience to give these young play­ers a chance?

“Or al­ter­na­tively how many sim­ply re­alised that re­sults are all im­por­tant, fi­nance is all im­por­tant and dipped into a ready-made op­tion from the for­eign mar­ket to en­sure suc­cess?”

Eng­land’s FA will be among those hop­ing for change af­ter at­tempt­ing to es­tab­lish a path­way from youth teams into the se­niors, who have un­der­per­formed badly in ma­jor tour­na­ments for decades.

The FA blueprint ap­pears to be work­ing, as no other Eng­land team had even won a match at an Un­der 20 tour­na­ment since 1997 and even failed to qual­ify four times over 20 years.

Among the clubs most likely to give youth a chance are Ever­ton, who sup­plied five play­ers to Eng­land in South Korea, three of whom were in the first-team squad for the fi­nal game of last sea­son. Eng­land’s cap­tain Lewis Cook is an­other look­ing ready to step up af­ter mak­ing six first-team ap­pear­ances for Bournemouth last term. – Reuters

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