It is clearer now more than ever before that we cannot produce quality youth players. For every English talent such as John Stones or Marcus Rashford, our European competitors are able to produce world-beaters in the likes of Paul Pogba and Mario Gotze. With Euro 2016 fast approaching, The Football Forecast discusses why is it that England’s youth players are failing to come through?
The most obvious reason for the lack of talent is the lack of opportunities for English players. The Premier League is renown for being financial football giants, with respect to other footballing leagues. Hence it is no surprise that we are able to attract some of the biggest names of world football from across the globe, such as Sergio Aguero and Mesut Ozil. As a result of this, English players are not prioritised when managers choose their starting line-ups, simply due to the fact that they are not as good as other international stars. This issue has resulted in players being unable to fulfil their potential due to a lack of game time, and so they can only reach a certain level before being quickly replaced. This differs to leagues in Germany, where German youth has been emphasized both at club and international level. Hence stars such as Mario Gotze and Marco Reus have been able to rise at Dortmund due to consistent game time. A prime example of this problem with England’s youth is Jack Wilshere, who at one point was tipped to be England’s new Paul Scholes. Unfortunately, injury and serious competition has displaced him from a starting spot both at Arsenal and for England.
The media must also take responsibility for England’s failures. It is not uncommon to see newspapers exploding with excitement at a fresh, young winger or striker emerging in the Premier League. Such reports create a huge amount of controversy for a number of reasons. Apart from putting pressure on the discussed player to perform at such a high level, these reports also can have a detrimental effect on the attitudes of such players. It is no surprise our youth has an ego problem considering the wages they are paid and the deliriousness of our media if any English player with potential is spotted. It is a shame, considering the likes of David Bentley have showed in the past the ability to perform, before rejecting the chance to play for the youth team as they see themselves as better than they are. It is only with hindsight we realise how bad a decision this was for his career.
In contrast to England, nations such as France and Germany have encouraged their youth to progress through a much more positive system. The youth scouts look at young players in a more holistic manner, analysing them over a number of years rather than the more short-term approach adopted here. Indeed a recent Channel 4 documentary found that English youth players have one of the lowest rates of successful call-ups to professional clubs in Europe. The setup of leagues such as the Bundesliga has prioritized German youth over that of other nations; it was their own youth product that scored the goal to win Germany the World Cup in 2014.
We are trailing behind in terms of youth development with regards to our European neighbours. Whilst players such as Delle Alli and Harry Kane are starting to emerge, a lack of support for our youth has stifled a nation, which invests a huge amount in its football. Unless we change our entire youth setup, England’s national team will be without international success for many years to come.