‘Another trophy added to the cabinet’, is not an expression England fans are used to hearing. And yet England have won 3 trophies this summer from the 5 youth tournaments they entered. It’s a staggering haul made even more impressive considering the 2 tournaments they didn’t win saw England make a final and semi final in both cases only going out on penalties.
Keith Downing will rightly get praised in the same way as Paul Simpson for establishing a team that swept a tough looking group aside and then closed out 2 tightly contested knock out games to win the trophy.
The under 19 team were defensively disciplined (conceding only twice in 5 games) and showed the creativity to unlock defensives in the final third. Ryan Sessegnon was inevitably the star man but Downing had confidence enough in his 18 man party to rotate his side and keep winning.
As I blogged before it’s unlikely any of these players will go to Russia 2018 but the European Under 21’s of 2019 for which qualifying will start this season must now be firmly in England’s sights. Most of Aidy Boothroyd’s U21 semi finalists have now graduated out of the under 21 class meaning 3 the trophy winning sides of this summer will start moving up to the under 21s. Boothroyd’s first squad selection of the new season will be treated with as much anticipation as Gareth Southgate’s as fans way to see the next stage of England’s youth development.
The FA will rightly point to this summers success as evidence their England DNA strategy and the new St Georges Park facility are paying dividends. As the new Premier League season homes into view fans will be keen to see England’s young players given prominence in the league. There will also inevitably be more media interest in how England’s youth teams are performing at International level- expect to see bigger crowds and more television coverage.
How the Premier League responds to the nations renewed belief in homegrown talent will be curious to see. Sir Alex Ferguson spoke during his Manchester United tenure of the importance of the national side to the Premier League, should England’s clubs be seen to fail its young players a backlash (unthinkable a year ago) could well follow.
Nobody wants to hear politicians like Andy Burnham talking about quotas for home based players (for one thing they don’t work!) But the Premier League’s success is built on TV revenues, just how much Sky & BT are prepared to pay for Premier League coverage will be based on public opinion.
When the English game was simply not producing talented players it was easy to dismiss the problems of the national team as the FA’s fault for not investing enough in grassroots football (how many times have we heard that over the years?!) Now England has produced 5 separate successful youth teams in 1 summer, if the clubs can’t provide a pathway to first team success the gravy train may well get derailed. The Premier League has never been slow to exploit an opportunity before, let’s hope they take up the chance to help develop a successful national team.