Clubs and FA failing the next generation
Saturday 12 September 2009
Receiving rather less prominence this week than the attempts to predict Fabio Capello's party for South Africa was the release of an actual squad for this month's junior World Cup in Egypt.
The low profile reflected English attitudes to the under-20 tournament, as did the squad. With respect to the players concerned, the team Brian Eastick selects to face Uruguay a fortnight today will be a reserve XI. Gavin Hoyte, the Arsenal defender, has some name-recognition but the others will only be known to ardent readers of their club's websites.
This was not what Eastick hoped for when England qualified. "We hope clubs release our best players for this tournament," he said, "if that happens, we'll have a real chance."
Eastick was doubtless thinking of Arsenal's Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs, Fabian Delph and Nathan Delfouneso of Aston Villa, Everton's Jack Rodwell and Dan Gosling, Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge, James Tomkins of West Ham, and Manchester United's Danny Welbeck. Instead, most will be warming benches at Premier League grounds.
This is short-sighted of both the clubs and the FA, who requested but fought meekly for their release. Tournament experience is vital to international players' development and cannot be gained without attending them. It is no coincidence that Spain, who take these competitions seriously, are European champions. Several of their Euro 2008 winning XI, including Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Iker Casillas, appeared at under-20 finals.
Spain are in Egypt, as are Brazil who include Giuliano, their latest attacking starlet, despite his key role in Internacional's domestic title challenge. England have never reached the final. That could have changed, but will not now.
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