Future gloom despite Cup win
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