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The Unlikely Lads

June 27th, 2010 by · No Comments · Football

Oh what happened to you, whatever happened to me?

What shall we talk about today? Oh I know, how about England v. Germany – in 2014. Although the media are firmly fixed on the past [insert war pun here] I’m more interested in what happens next. Without being too dramatic one of the key impacts of today’s result is the future shape of English football.

While Germany have, partly through necessity, followed a philosophy of introducing young players to the national squad England have, for the last 6-8 years, played pretty much the same core team. Although that gives England an advantage in terms of experience, which may prove crucial today, it means that at some point time runs out. And that time is now.

This England squad, the oldest in the tournament and the oldest to represent the nation, will simply not be around by 2014 Brazil. If England play Germany in that tournament they would face a familiar, and still relatively young, German team with the benefit of 4 years international experience. But what might their opponents look like?

The only likely survivors from today’s squad are: Jo Hart [23], Aaron Lennon [23], James Milner [24], Glen Johnson [25], Michael Dawson [26], and, of course, Wayne Rooney [24].

So, maybe the defence could rebuild with a few additions [Kieran Gibbs?] coming through the ranks. However, when it comes to midfielders and forwards England look threadbare. Just last week Trevor Brooking, describing the current England U17 squad as ‘the best group we’ve had in six or seven years’, warned of a potential vacuum between the retirement of the senior squad and the emergence of new stars.

The key players who beat Spain to win the European U-17 Championship this year, Josh McEachran, Connor Wickham and Nathaniel Chalobah, will be international novices when the next World Cup comes around. Of course that is if the potential they show now turns to real talent and they have the luck to stay fit and find a regular place in a top-level team.

At some point in the near future English football must decide how it manages contrasting pressures. The pressures of building a successful national team and of hosting the worlds richest league. The balance of creating opportunities for young English players while owners, sponsors, fans, and the media are obsessed with short-term success. Success, sadly, which can be bought in the academies of less well-off European leagues, Africa and South America. Expect any player that makes a mark in this tournament to be linked with a Premier League club. That’s one less squad place for a young English player.

Even Arsenal, who give more support and opportunities to youth than most, have had their problems bringing through young English talent over the years. For every Fabregas there is always a Jermaine Pennant, a David Bentley, and, probably, a Theo Walcott – Young English players who never make that step to international level.

The result of today’s game may change when English football deals with this crisis. If England win today it can be put aside until the euphoria fades. But it’s a matter of when the FA, PL, etc have to deal with it, not if.

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