Why England actually *should* pick their best U21 side
3 weeks ago, 11:43
Send your mails to email@example.com
I enjoyed your piece last week on England’s strongest possible U21 side – or, more accurately, England’s strongest possible players-born-1996-or-later side (you can be really quite old and still play U21 football, can’t you?).
Then Harry Winks and Gareth Southgate raised the potential for senior squad members to represent the side at next summer’s finals, and a nice, idle diversion turned into a genuinely practical consideration.
That this immediately strikes me as a rather splendid idea – and not, as it might have in the past, as a completely feckless way to further run tired players into the ground – is a testament more than anything to the success of the FA’s and Southgate’s youth policy. Namely in the extent to which there appears to have formed a genuinely meaningful link between the various youth teams and the seniors, in the manner of how they play, and the potential for progression (what an opportunity an U21 call up must feel like today, given the recent glut of promotions, compared to only 2 or 3 years ago).
Potentially sending a squad including Solanke, Sancho, Mount, Maddison, Lookman, Nelson, Winks, Cook, Foden, Barnes, Chilwell, Sessegnon, Gomez, Wan-Bissaka et al seems like an excellent opportunity to gel together in a competitive tournament environment a group of players with very real potential to contribute to the senior side a year later at Euro 2020.
For what it’s worth I’d be inclined to leave out Rashford and Dele, given that they’ve been out of the youth setups since 2016, and have the benefit of two senior tournaments’ experience. It would seem counter-productive to bump aside, say, Ademola Lookman and Mason Mount to bring them in. Possibly RLC and Trent too, with their involvement in Russia and the abundance of options in their positions.
But taken seriously next summer’s U21 tournament could be an incredibly productive few weeks for an extremely talented group of players – effectively a high-intensity training camp for what might amount to half of the next World Cup squad. It’s been a quiet process (“England DNA” powerpoints notwithstanding), but the fact that we can look upon a youth tournament in this manner – as something with not just the potential to forward player development, but team and squad development – shows that, finally, England have in the FA a capable steward for the national game.
Errol Thomas, LFC
More Love For Gareth
I’m Nigerian, but I love Gareth Southgate. It’s refreshing to see a national team manager who’s not afraid to make the difficult choices in player call-ups and team selections. I’ll be the first to admit that this ‘love’ is probably borne out of envy.
This international break, I saw the Nigerian national team, our beloved super eagles, play with a dynamism I never would have guessed was even remotely possible. Alex Iwobi playing in the number 10 role, behind Odion Ighalo was beautiful to watch. Etebo’s driving runs and incisive movement in a deeper role beside Ndidi was something I never thought ...
Category: sports football