So England failed to retain their Euro Under 19 title after a 5-0 drubbing from France. Worse still failing to make the semi finals put England into a playoff to make next years Under 20 World Cup. They lost it 3-0 to Norway meaning England won’t be defending the Under 20 World Cup they won in Seoul last summer.
The reason for England’s youngsters failing to match last seasons heroics was the absence of their brightest prospects from this seasons squad. Mason Mount, Jadon Sancho & Phil Foden to name but 3 were left out at the request of their clubs.
It’s easy to characterize this as yet another example of the Premier League failing the national team, but a closer look shows a more nuanced situation. The problem is the Under 19s have been timed for mid July, straight after the World Cup and at the start of pre-season. With clubs missing their World Cup players the opportunity to stake a claim is there for youth team stars. Take Manchester City- shorn of 16 World Cup players, City have taken a youthful side into the International Cup including Foden, who can now press his first team chances ahead of a season to which a lot of his teammates will be missing the early engagements.
One of the players City faced on tour was former academy ace Sancho who started against them for Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile Arsenal youngsters Eddie Nketiah & Emile Smith-Rowe have impressed under the watchful eye of their new Club Boss Uni Emery. It’s easy to see why the clubs were keen to hold onto their youngsters this particular year. On the flip side whilst England took a weakened side to the Under 19s they took a full strength Under 20 team to the Toulon Tournament, resulting in a third straight title. The star player was Arsenal man Nketiah in a squad that also included Lewis Cook, Tammy Abraham, Kieran Dowell & Freddie Woodman. So while this summer hasn’t been trophy laden progress is being made.
The Under 19 disappointment doesn’t mean England should rip up the St Georges Park program. But getting the youth team players released from their clubs will always be a two-way street with the FA negotiating with the clubs to get a balance between club and international football, this summer shouldn’t be seen as a return to the bad old days.
England’s biggest priority at youth level is to qualify for and make the final of next years European Under 21 Championship in Italy. They currently hold a 5 point lead over Holland in their group, taking a strong squad to Italy in June has to be the priority as England attempt to close the circle of Youth Cups in the St Georges Park era.
Picture Credits: The Fa.com, Telegraph