David Bernstein admits England Under-21 selection policy left manager Stuart Pearce in difficult position
FA chairman wants a review of why so many players were lost to the England senior side
David Bernstein, the departing Football Association chairman, has promised a review of the selection process that sees England's brightest, young talent unavailable for tournaments like the European Under-21 Championship.
A second defeat in two group matches, 3-1 against Norway on Saturday, meant England are already eliminated after their worst performance in four competitions under Stuart Pearce. After winning only three games out of 14 at those finals, he seems certain to be replaced once his contract expires at the end of the month.
Club England board members will discuss his future in the next fortnight, including the new FA chairman Greg Dyke, who officially takes over on 13 July, in their deliberations.
Bernstein said Pearce had "done well over a long period, particularly with all the factors, he's operated with quite a difficult hand". Those factors include the unavailability of players – 13 of them this time – which has affected every one of the tournaments.
Pearce, reluctant to make excuses in advance, or rock the boat while it was still afloat, came out more strongly following Saturday night's defeat. He said: "The team that takes their best players will win the tournament, the teams that don't, won't, they'll go home early. You need teams to come with their strongest players and most senior internationals."
Norway flew four players back from a World Cup qualifier on Friday night and were put on stand-by against England, although only one of them was required to come on.
Bernstein said that England's policy was that nobody selected for the post-season friendlies, at home to Ireland and away to Brazil, would take part in any under-age tournament this summer.
He added: "I do think we need to look at the strategic approach to all these tournaments. I also absolutely support these tournaments, I think they're fantastic, the players benefit from being here, so I can understand Stuart's frustration.
"But if the two clash, then at the end of the day the England senior team simply has to have priority."
Despite the Under-21 tournament being moved to odd years so as not to clash with the senior competition or a World Cup, there always will be crossover, because there are two Fifa international dates every June.
This year, England's senior manager Roy Hodgson insisted on having several players with him who are still eligible for the Under-21s. Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was seen as the one who might have benefited most from being at a tournament for two weeks, but Bernstein said: "He played half an hour of one match, he got the flavour of Brazil, which was important, and did remarkably well in that half an hour.
"He possibly saved a match that we might have lost. I'm sure Roy was extremely happy to have him there.
"You have always got to support the England senior manager in the pressure that he is under of wanting his strongest squad, particularly a World Cup preparatory match in a different country where we had not played for 30 years."
He dismissed the notion that a player could then have joined the Under-21s in Israel. Bernstein said: "We took the view with the climatic situation, the extent of travelling involved and remembering that some other players had travelled back and forth across the Atlantic on club tours."
Bernstein was speaking at a function organised on the theme of kicking racism and violence out of sport, with special reference to Israeli football. England and Israel meet tomorrow in the final group A game, in Jerusalem, when Pearce is expected to give a game to a number of squad players, while still wanting to finish what is likely to be his last match in charge with a win.
Earlier in the day the former England defender Sol Campbell blamed young players for "believing they've made it" and insisted something had to be done about the number of foreign players in the Premier League.
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