GIVE STARLETS A GO
MATT BELL says it’s vital England’s new hopes are handed first-team opportunities at their clubs…
Young guns need chances
BACK in 2007, the Daily Mail predicted the England team of 2014 which would take the world by storm. This team lined up like so: Ben Amos (goalkeeper), Sam Hutchinson (right-back), Micah Richards (centre-back), Gavin Hoyte (centreback), Robbie Threlfall (left-back), Dean Parrett (right midfield), Michael Johnson (centre midfield), James Henry (left midfield), Theo Walcott (right of front three), Jose Baxter (central striker) and Scott Sinclair (left of front three).
It’s safe to say their prediction was pure rubbish, as in 2014 only one of those players, Arsenal’s Walcott, was anywhere near the England squad, with Richards and Sinclair having a sniff in the past.
Fast forward to 2017, and the England men’s senior team still brings groans to all those that waste 90 minutes watching them.
Yet again they seem to be cruising to World Cup qualification, but all fans feel that this is as good as it gets, and they will struggle to make the quarter-finals in Russia 2018.
However, looking further down the line at the age group teams, England have reason to be cheerful.
It’s been a very productive summer for the Three Lions, with the U21s getting to the European Championship semi-finals (losing on penalties to Germany – some things never change!), the U20s winning the World Cup in South Korea, the U19s winning the European Championships and the U17s losing the final to Spain in the European Championship (again on penalties!).
For the brains behind the St George’s Park project, they will undoubtedly be licking their lips with joy. Yet how do we take these positive results? Do we get excited for the future, or do we merely take it with a pinch of salt? There are a lot of promising players in those teams. Ryan Sessegnon of Fulham, Lewis Baker of Chelsea, Phil Foden of Manchester City (who Pep Guardiola raved about after a pre-season match versus Manchester United), Dominic Solanke (Liverpool), Sheyi Ojo (Liverpool, now on loan at Fulham) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) are just some of those that come to mind. Sadly, the harrowing truth is that maybe two or three of these youngsters will actually make the England squad. Why is this? Well, for one thing it is ridiculously hard for a youngster to get game time for their clubs to grow. Chelsea have just loaned out their 25th youngster (as of August 4), yet only have 17 first team squad members. They have also just sold former England Under-21 regular Nathaniel Chalobah to Watford. Many Chelsea fans had watched the 22year-old develop and felt he was just about knocking on Antonio Conte’s door for a starting berth. However, signings nowadays are for an instant impact. Only on rare occasions do clubs buy players for their long-term potential, and those that do immediately ship those youngsters out on loan. Instead, these players end up in the Champi- onship, the lower leagues or, in Chelsea’s case, many different European countries, and struggle to get the sufficient growth they need. The England senior team itself will be hard to break into. A lot of the current team are all yet to reach their peak, and are currently under the age of 25. Jack Butland (goalkeeper) is 24, Luke Shaw (left-back) is 22, Kyle Walker (right-back) is 27, John Stones (centre-back) is 23, Marcus Rashford (striker) is 19, Harry Kane (striker) is 24 and Dele Alli (midfielder) is 21. The squad is still young and those players could easily be at the top for the next five to ten years. It has already had an effect on the older players, with Wayne Rooney, James Milner, Theo Walcott and, perhaps, Joe Hart finding it harder to get themselves into the team. The danger is that if the new crop of players don’t get their chances at their clubs, they could disappear off the face of the earth. Let’s be honest, you all probably forgot that Michael Johnson was meant to be one of the next best things, and then there is David Bentley who was meant to be the next David Beckham….
Sessegnon Theo Walcott Hutchinson Henry Walcott Solanke Calvert-Lewin Hoyte Amos Baxter Richards Johnson Threlfall Parrett Sinclair