The problem with England’s youth ranks (Video)

First we witnessed the terrible performances of the U21’s at the European Championships, with even their manager criticising how they had played, before the U20’s attempted to salvage some pride at the World Cup.

One week after they arrived in Turkey they were already on a plane heading back to the UK, after failing to win a group game and collecting just two points. With the dwindling expectations that the senior side can achieve anything at next summer’s World Cup, the future of English football is looking very bleak and the FA need to pay more than lip service to the so called ‘investment in youth football’ that they are so proudly proclaiming these days.

What is holding back young English talent and how can we change things so that we aren’t struggling to beat sides like Iraq and Egypt?

The main problem is the lack of time afforded to managers in the Premier League and their consequent rush to achieve instant success. Whilst a player that has come through an academy system, and done well enough to merit being called up to the senior squad, is certainly talented, is he able to make the jump from reserve football to playing on the biggest stage in front of thousands of fans and the pressure of media coverage?

Chances are that if a player is given time to adapt and regular playing time on the pitch, then he may well flourish into a quality footballer. However, with job security and longevity at an all-time low, it is unlikely that managers will risk playing an inexperienced youngster and more likely that they would prefer to sign an already tested player for this position. So we have a vicious cycle where unless players are experienced then they won’t be picked, but if they aren’t picked then they can’t gain experience.

Teams like Manchester United have a proven track record of developing their own talent, with the generation of Beckham, Scholes, the Neville brothers etc all coming through at the same time. It took a lot of courage for Sir Alex Ferguson to show so much faith in these boys, but ultimately he was rewarded with sticking by this group of players, despite plenty of criticism at his decision to do so. Not many current managers have the strength of character, or the backing of their chairman, to be able to utilise this approach. Perhaps we need a few more visionaries in charge to be able to sort this issue…

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