‘Young Eng­land’ can boost Pre­mier League qual­ity

Evening Express (City Final) - - Sport -

YOU’D need to be ob­tuse be­yond be­lief not to no­tice that some­thing ex­cit­ing is hap­pen­ing in English foot­ball. And, no, it’s not the re­turn of the Pre­mier League. Eng­land’s var­i­ous youth teams have a sen­sa­tional record over the last few months – Un­der-20 World Cup win­ners plus a list of beaten fi­nal­ists, semi-fi­nal­ists and now their U17 team are ab­so­lutely fly­ing at the World Cup in In­dia.

I’m work­ing often with Luis Gar­cia (exLiver­pool, Barcelona and Atlético), who’s cur­rently work­ing over there. And when he says “young” Eng­land are the best side he’s seen so far, you know they are the real deal. He doesn’t do flat­tery.

When Spain be­gan to win or place in youth tour­na­ment af­ter youth tour­na­ment it wasn’t in fash­ion for La Liga’s clubs to pro­mote the young bucks quickly. What hap­pened is that the tidal wave of suc­cess was so huge that, grad­u­ally, trust was ex­tended and the gen­er­a­tions of Puyol, Casil­las, Xavi, Fer­nando Tor­res, Ini­esta, Joan Capdev­ila and Car­los Marchena emerged. The path ahead for the Pre­mier League is not to wait, as Eng­land’s me­dia would have it, to see whether play­ers from these var­i­ous new suc­cess­ful age groups “are good enough” to force their way through. The way ahead is to trust them, throw them in and let that proof emerge over months – prob­a­bly even sea­sons.

Un­til that hap­pens the Pre­mier League will

still be a prod­uct where the siz­zle is much more ap­pe­tiz­ing than the ac­tual sausage. The high­est pro­file game in Europe this week­end will be be­tween Liver­pool and Manch­ester United.

But I’d wa­ger that even af­ter many of the play­ers at the Wanda Metropoli­tano sta­dium feel the ef­fects of what Spain calls the “Fifa virus” (af­ter a cou­ple of weeks of in­ter­na­tional foot­ball and huge waves of jet lag thanks to tran­sat­lantic flights or play­ing at al­ti­tude), the bet­ter foot­ball will be played be­tween Atlético and Barça (to­mor­row night).

But if you’re look­ing for an un­ex­pected treat, do not miss Betis v Va­len­cia – be­tween them their matches this sea­son have seen al­most 50 goals.

NO FLAT­TERY: Luis Gar­cia tells it straight.

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