FA seek solution to club conflicts

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The Independent Online

The Football Association are determined to avoid more rows with England's leading clubs over player release for age group tournaments next year.

Director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking views such competitions as invaluable experience for England's budding young stars.

But with the European Under-21 Championships topping a list that also includes similar tournaments at under-19 and under-17 level, plus the Under-20s World Cup in Colombia, Brooking is aware of potential problems.

Club England have already written to all clubs, advising them of possible release dates and have privately pledged that no one will be asked to feature in more than one competition.

But they got involved in a spat with Arsene Wenger two years ago when the Arsenal boss got annoyed that Theo Walcott was selected to play for the England senior team and the under-21s in the same month.

It is unlikely to happen this year. At least not with Walcott.

"Sometimes clubs think because their players have played for the seniors they don't need to play for the under-21s," said Brooking.

"But it would be useful for people who have drifted around the senior squad; Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Jack Rodwell, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson.

"Walcott does qualify for the under-21s but he has been in the seniors for longer than any of the others.

"That one is up for discussion. The other lads are not regulars."

Brooking's reasoning is fairly straightforward.

If players such as Wilshere were concentrating solely on an under-21 squad coached by Stuart Pearce, whom the FA are keen to discuss a new contract with, they would spend the first week in June preparing, probably with at least one friendly.

A Euro 2012 qualifier with Switzerland at Wembley on June 4 would merely replace that for anyone lucky enough to be required by Fabio Capello.

"Tournament football is different," he said.

"The more who can sample it, the better.

"We have started to get to the finals of these tournaments. Now we want to try and get everyone released so we can gauge our capabilities."

The end game for Brooking is the 2018 World Cup, when he expects a pretty high percentage of last summer's successful European under-17 champions to have made their mark in the game.

"Hopefully, that will be the start of a conveyor belt," he said.

"We should eventually get to the point of asking 'who are we going to leave out?', not 'how do we make them up?'.

"We have always talked about 2018. Not because we are forgetting about 2014, even if Brazil is going to be difficult for any European team, but some of those under-17s will be in their mid-20s then.

"You would like to think they will be coming through."