Every international tournament for England always ends with heartbreak. But how could we change that?
The main problem lies at the very stem of English football, grassroots. Coaches are too set in their ways, or perhaps too proud, to alter their methods. More often a 6″2 brutish destroyer will be chosen over a 5″1 technically gifted midfielder. It’s not 1966 anymore, the game’s evolved. Take Mesut Özil for example, he’s not the tallest or the strongest but he can slot a pass through the eye of a needle. But because he’s German, a country that values ability over athleticism, he got the training and nurturing necessary for a top player to succeed. If he was English, there’s a very good chance he would’ve been thrown away early on in his career which would’ve ended his career before it began.
Promoting youth players
Recently, a graph posted by Youth Academies on Twitter (which you can view here) shows how many minutes have been given to teenagers this season. Everton topped the list with 2,140 minutes, with Manchester United coming second with 1,924 minutes given to teenagers. However, six clubs have given 0 minutes of game time to teenagers, the most high profile club being Chelsea. The most a youth player can hope for nowadays is getting a start in a meaningless cup match or being loaned out to a lower league club without being given a chance to prove themselves.
The final point of this article will be on England call-ups. More often than not, the England manager is too afraid to call up young players for fear of them failing on the international stage. Instead, traditional “safe bets” like Cahill and Smalling are chosen. I’ve backed Southgate since day one because a club (or country) cannot succeed if fans are constantly arguing over the manager, but he needs to take a risk and call up under-21 players to further their development. Names like Pickford, Holding, and Ward-Prowse spring to mind.
The entire England set-up needs a massive overhaul and it’s not something that can be solved by throwing more money at it. The FA needs to take a look at the way they develop young players and how they are used by club and country. It will be a difficult and lengthy progress, but it will all be worth it to see an England team lift the World Cup in my lifetime.
Feature Image credit: Cushdy