England haven’t won a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup, everyone is reminded of that before every competition the national side are involved in. Nevertheless, the youth sides continue to show promise, while the senior side almost always breeze through their qualification groups. Why is it then that England are never challenging for major titles?
Euro 2016 was a real eye-opener for England, particularly when you consider what happened with their major rivals, Wales. The build up to the tournament, and particularly that heavyweight clash was covered relentlessly by the world’s media, with many predicting that the Three Lions would come out on top.
As it was, England had to rely on a late Daniel Sturridge winner to spare Roy Hodgson’s blushes, in a game that largely dominated by Wales. Joe Hart was used as England’s whipping boy throughout the tournament, as the side scraped through the group stages in second place, behind Wales.
England’s fate in the tournament was sealed by Iceland, in truly embarrassing circumstances. Fans were delighted to have drawn a team that were considered to be monumental outsiders, and yet Hodgson’s team couldn’t beat them in the quarter-finals.
Euro 2016 was built up as a tournament in which England could be considered as real contenders for the title, and yet Wales were the ones who surprised everyone, reaching the semi-finals in their first major tournament since 1958.
There is also the argument that if we do have so much good young home grown talent, how come we have only won one major tournament in 46 years?
We see lots of players young and old coming to play here but how many English players go to play abroad and make a success of it? The answer is not many.
The argument is that England have really good talent at youth level, which is perplexing when you consider that the senior side haven’t won a major tournament in nearly 51-years.
Several Premier League clubs have started to give their younger talents a crack in the world’s biggest domestic league, and despite that experience, progress and development, many struggle to take their form to the international stage.
How many English players go and play abroad and make a success of it? The answer is very few. Chelsea are well-renowned for loaning out their youth prospects to Vitesse Anaheim in Holland, with Dominic Solanke and Lewis Baker both impressing during their time at the club.
England’s under-21 side won the Toulon Tournament in 2016 for the first time in 22-years, and will be looking to repeat that success in this year’s competition, after beating Cuba 1-0 in their tournament opener.
The under-20 team have began their 2017 World Cup campaign in some style, topping their group with seven points from three games. Players in Ademola Lookman (Everton), Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), and Dominic Solanke (Liverpool), have been the standouts for the Three Lions, and will be hopeful of impressing their domestic clubs as the tournament progresses.
Solanke signed for Liverpool last week, leaving Chelsea after 12-years with the London club. The 19-year old is well-known for being prolific at youth level, both with Chelsea and England, with many tipping him to be the next big thing.
His move to Liverpool comes as a surprise to many, especially when you consider he was at Vitesse Anaheim in the 2015-16 season. The Merseyside giants already have several strikers on their books, which could mean that Solanke will struggle for game-time with Liverpool, especially in the early stages.
If youth prospects are signed, and struggle for game-time, then surely their development is hindered, no? Clubs usually turn to loaning out their talents, but even then there is the argument that that they’re not getting the experience at a high enough level.
A lot of the players that have featured for the England youth sides in recent years have seen their careers dip, and for some, completely collapse all-together. If the young, up-and-coming talent is to progress, and make England’s senior side a force then domestic clubs need to give their players more game-time, especially if it’s at Premier League level.
Performing at youth level, even on the international stage is a world away from breaking through in the Premier League, but Marcus Rashford has shown that it is possible.
His rise came from nowhere, and he only made eight competitive appearances from England under-16 to under-21 over four years. The 19-year old made his senior debut in 2016, he was called-up to the Euro 2016 squad, and broke Wayne Rooney’s record as the youngest player to represent England in the European Championships by four days.
Players like Rashford are vital for England’s future, and their development is vital. In the build up to Euro 2016, some were concerned that calling-up Rashford for the tournament could hinder his development, when in actual fact it turned out to be a record-breaking experience for him.
Opinions will always be divided when it comes to young talent, but England are never going to win a major tournament again unless they improve on the structure they have in bringing through youth players into the senior side. It is not every day that a player like Rashford emerges onto the scene, and this is why it is so important.
Do you think England will win a major tournament within the next 20-years? Let us know what you think in the comments below.