England’s Under 20’s may be champions of the football world for their age group, but somehow I still have doubts over the progression of those outstanding young players as they seek to push on an reach the top end of their potential.
The doubt isn’t out of that annoying pessimism you can sometimes have about the team you support, as I’m not an England football fan, however I have followed the English national team enough to notice that the hype and optimism around younger players can quickly turn to frustration, when they aren’t showing the ability that the fans, media and perhaps coaches once expected.
Take Wayne Rooney for example. The Manchester United captain has polarised opinions over the years as to whether or not he was/is a successful player for the promise he once showed. Now that’s the problem, Rooney in his career won, five English Premier League Titles, three League Cups, an FA Cup, a Champions League, a Europa League and a FIFA Club World Cup, he’s also the all time top goalscorer for club and country, won player of the year awards, made the FIFA Team of the Year along with many other impressive accolades.
Now that’s a problem, when a player who’s achieved as much as Rooney has can even so much as be mildly considered a failure, it puts into perspective the mountainous expectations that young promising England players face.
I know the achievement of winning an under’s tournament shows strength as a collective unit and promise as a group, in oppose to just one individual player, however they have had successful campaigns in under’s tournaments before, most memorable for me was the 2009 Under 21 European Championships.
The England team of that tournament showed great promise and got to the final. Ultimately getting beat by a Germany side, who with the benefit of hindsight where absolutely insanely good.
The Germany team of that day, included 2014 FIFA World Cup winning players such as Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Howedes, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil. So it’s fair to say the Germany team from the 2009 Under 21 Euro’s went onto to develop into a fairly successful players. Their English opponents from the final? Not so much.
So six Germany players from that day went on to win the World Cup, while only six of the England team would even win a full international cap, with only James Milner and Theo Walcott becoming regulars with more than 20 caps.
So what’s the difference? Where they just better or is it down to development? Many of those German players where granted opportunities in the Bundesliga, or went abroad to really showcase their ability, notably Boateng, Ozil and Khedira left their homeland to find successful football careers or to at the very least earn an opportunity.
Meanwhile most of the England players struggled to find regular first team football in the Premier League. Only Michael Mancienne went abroad to play for Hamburg in an attempt to develop his career, perhaps unsuccessfully, but the attempt is admirable nevertheless.
Bringing it back to the modern day and the Under 20’s triumph. It would be a shame if this group of players mirror the careers of the 2009 Euro’s team, but if I’m honest I think it’s even more likely. The Premier League is the goldmine of world football, justifiable with the report that Sunderland earned more money for finishing bottom than Real Madrid did for winning the Champions League.
That goldmine allows the clubs to constantly improve their teams with top talent from across the globe, often ignoring the local talent wasting in the wilderness of their squads only to leave a few years later to play lower league football or at best further down the league table than their talent once suggested.
It’s up to the clubs of the English Premier League, to provide opportunities for these players, giving them first team football and a chance to maximise their potential, and then maybe just maybe, this U-20 team will have greatly successful careers at club and intentional level.