Richard Scudamore denies Premier League is to blame for poor England performances

Age-group teams have performed poorly this summer

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The Independent Football

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore dismissed as “nonsense” claims that the top-flight clubs are to blame for the poor performances of England's age-group teams this summer.

The Under-21s lost every game as they crashed out of the European Championships in Israel and the Under-20s failed to win any group matches at the World Cup.

Former England international Graeme Le Saux called believes the best youngsters need, among other things, to be given more opportunities to play regular football.

But Scudamore jumped to the defence of Premier League clubs and attempted to brush aside the notion that English players are being stifled by the number of overseas players in the top flight.

"You know how I'm going to respond to that - that's nonsense, absolute nonsense," he said.

"There were 210 players qualified to play for England playing in the Premier League last year, and - by the way - they're all playing in the Premier League.

"And we ought to be able to find 11 to take the field to do well.

"Those players are playing week in, week out against the world's best talent.

"Our responsibility is to make sure the youth-development systems in this country are as good as they can be. That huge investment, £320 million, in the elite performance plan is starting to see results.

"We're starting to see more English-qualified people coming through the academies, we're starting to see more take part in first teams.

"Our youth-development systems are beginning to work even better than they've worked in the past.

"All we can do is be responsible for some of the input. Clearly, our responsibility ends once those players go off and are selected."

Le Saux's chief concern is the players' attitude towards age-grade international football and what he perceives to be a lack of pride in playing for England.

"It's important that the players respect the competitions and that they value the international competitions that they play in," Le Saux said.

"We need to create through the FA. Clubs need to feel that releasing players is the right thing to do and players need to really want to go to a tournament and play.

"If you go to a tournament under duress are you going to perform well? Probably not. It's a shame to have a player who loses the value of playing for his country.

"We've got to make sure that awareness and significance of playing for your country is upheld. There's got to be pride."

Le Saux and Scudamore were speaking at the launch of a three-year £16.8million joint-funding scheme between the Premier League and Sport England, aimed at driving youth sports participation.