England’s refusal in previous years to select as many eligible players as possible for the European Under-21 Championships has been cited as one of the many causes behind the senior side’s toils in major tournaments.
Five of Germany’s World Cup final starting XI last summer began the Euro 2009 U21 final demolition over their English counterparts and the pressure has been increased in recent months for Gareth Southgate to take as strong a squad as possible to the Czech Republic.
Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson seems to be behind the movement, stating that Southgate has ‘first pick’ on players, despite England having a friendly with Ireland and a Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia to play in June.
As a result of this revelation, bwin go 4/6 that over 2.5 fully-fledged senior stars are selected for the junior Euros, while it’s 11/10 that fewer than two travel to the land formerly known as Czechoslovakia.
Just two minted England internationals travelled to France for the U21 side’s 3-2 defeat this week and there’s a case to be made why as many, if not fewer, should feature in the summer’s showpiece.
The team that obliterated all the qualification competition deserves the chance to play in the tournament.
Including the Raheem Sterlings, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlains and Phil Joneses of this world will, on paper, improve the Young Lions’ squad, but what sort of message will this convey to the players they’ll displace?
Similarly, if those deemed good enough to feature for the seniors have missed out on development in the U21 team then what good will knocking them down a level for the sake of one tournament do?
Southgate’s side had won 11 straight games prior to their non-competitive loss to France and hadn’t tasted defeat in 15; they’re clearly good enough to prevail in the Czech Rep, which says a lot about the talent the current crop of English youngsters boast.
The seniors who come into the squad will have to acclimatise to a completely alien system in a short space of time.
Adjusting between playing styles at club and international level can understandably cause confusion.
For those England regulars who’ll be dropped into U21 territory, they’ll have a whole new brand of football to familiarise themselves with in just a matter of days.
Southgate’s side are of the cosmopolitan, high-press persuasion, quite the cool dudes, whereas Hodgson favours more agricultural methods.
A raft of individuals unaccustomed to the U21’s in-vogue approach could well hamper the team’s chances of success.
Will those who were part of the World Cup disaster last summer have the right attitude to play for the U21 team?
It’s well known what Jack Wilshere’s ideal summer holiday consists of…he’s rarely papped visiting a Prague museum.
For him and his senior colleagues, the concept of going off to play in what is now, from their perspective, a meaningless competition could well be seen as a distraction from time better spent on the beach.