Talented Under-21s are built with loans

Henderson and Jones have made big-name moves, but for many being farmed out is the only option

Sky Sports executives have been rubbing their hands after the £36million splurge into the transfer market over the past few days that has resulted in old rivals Liverpool and Manchester United finishing level in a one-one draw. Suddenly supporters of the two clubs – neither tribe normally avid followers of England – will be tuning in to tonight's live coverage of what was already a potentially fascinating Under-21 match against Spain.

How will Phil Jones, United's £16m recruit from Blackburn Rovers, show up alongside Chris Smalling in a partnership that Old Trafford could come to know and love? Is Jordan Henderson, already capped once at senior level by England, the real deal and could a future partnership with Steven Gerrard be equally profitable in Liverpool's midfield?

The spotlight might have been shining with equal intensity on others of Stuart Pearce's pups. Connor Wickham, Ipswich's impressively powerful centre-forward, the youngest member of the squad, has long been coveted by Liverpool and also Sunderland, who fear that they are being encouraged into nothing more than an auction they cannot win. Jack Rodwell performed so promisingly at the same tournament two years ago in Sweden that it seemed unlikely he would still be wearing the blue of Everton today.

Pearce, as he made clear at England's training headquarters this week, would like all further speculation stopped forthwith. He was proactive in encouraging Jones and Henderson to have all transfer business done, if not dusted, before they joined up with their international team-mates only a few hours late.

"I just deemed it was right and proper in regard to those two individuals before we met up that they did actually go and resolve those problems," he said. His fingers may have been crossed when he added: "I'm not actually aware at this stage that there is anyone else on the verge of moving clubs."

The similarities between the two transfers were significant: young English players brought through an academy system that has been the subject of some criticism providing a justification of it by earning vast sums for their lower-middle class clubs by moving to two of the biggest in the land.

However Blackburn and Sunderland use the huge fees, nobody can reasonably tell them that scouting and youth development are a waste of time on the grounds that so much cheap foreign labour is available.

The one concern from England's point of view was quickly expressed by Sir Trevor Brooking, whose occasional exasperation with his job as the Football Association's director of football development is leading these days to some increasingly forthright declarations about unwelcome trends.

On Friday he told the BBC that he was concerned about players such as Jones and Henderson missing out on regular football if they joined big clubs too quickly.

Pearce, however, had pointed out earlier that Smalling, for example, was given far more opportunities than expected at Manchester United this season. He could have said the same of Jones, which was just as well, since that pair have been the cornerstone of the U21's defence.

It is significant, nevertheless, that so many of the other squad members have gained their playing time only by going out on loan. Looking at how many have done so from United and Chelsea is instructive, as is the dilemma they inevitably face either sooner or later.

Once they lag behind in the highlycompetitive race for places in those top sides, what then? For Michael Mancienne, 23, and Scott Sinclair, 22, at Chelsea the answer has been a sad parting of the ways; for the 21 year-olds Jack Cork, Ryan Bertrand and Daniel Sturridge a day of decision may not be far off.

At a media briefing on Thursday Bertrand, who has made more than 150 appearances in five loan spells at various clubs from Bournemouth to Oldham, yet appeared only twice for Chelsea, hedged on the matter. He and Sinclair were two of the first signings made by Neil Bath, predecessor at Chelsea of Frank Arnesen as head of the much-vaunted academy, but Sinclair finally made the break last summer after five years and six loans, joining Swansea City and happily now finding himself back in the Premier League.

Had he settled for Stamford Bridge as a bit-part player it is highly unlikelythat he would have remained in such strong contention for a place against Spain this evening.

Similarly the Under-21 captain Mancienne, who has been able to enjoy something like the best of both worlds in that his loan was to a Premier League club in Wolves. Now he has joined Arnesen at Hamburg. Cork, meanwhile, approaches his 22nd birthday this month having been on six loan periods and apparently of a mind to convert the last of them at Burnley into a permanent move.

Sturridge waits to see whether Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Fernando Torres and Salomon Kalou will all be ahead of him in the queue by August.

"Every player has different paths and my path so far has been to go out on loan," said Bertrand, who has long found Ashley Cole barring his path to the first team. "Ashley is one of the best but as long as I am getting my development that is the main thing. For me, being at Chelsea has definitely been a benefit. Whether players come into Chelsea and make it in the first-team, their education has been fantastic."

It is what happens when that education is complete that is the moot point. Sir Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish may be inclined to argue that for the new poster boys Jones and Henderson, it has only just begun.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape