17 October 2012

Can England’s young talent compete with the best in International football?

By Aaron Leggott (Twitter: @aaron_leggott) 

After mediocre displays in recent major tournaments, there has been a lot of talk surrounding the future of English football of late.

England, under the guidance of Roy Hodgson, seem to be going through a spell of transformation, but it has not stopped the critics questioning the current ability of the Three Lions.

And after Patrick Vieira’s comments at the opening of the FA’s new national football centre near Burton, it got me thinking whether England’s new crop of talent will be able to compete with the giants of world football in years to come.

For those who haven’t seen what Manchester City’s football development executive said, has the Frenchman’s words, in short, bemoaned the lack of quality coaches in this country and stated that St George’s Park was long overdue:

He said: “Finally they did something, because if you look at all the big nations, they all have their own house. It’s taken them a long time for them to realise they need a place. But it’s better late than never.”

We have seen England captain Steven Gerrard hit back at Vieira’s claims in the past few days ahead of our encounter against Poland, as the midfield maestro admits he was surprised to hear what Vieira said, but believes that the young crop are hungry to start for England.

Of course, Vieira is one of the main influences behind Man City’s new £100m academy centre, which is sure to boost the amount of quality coming through the ranks at the home of the Premier League champions.

But like Vieira stated last week, a greater connection between the FA and domestic clubs is needed if we are to reach the levels of Spain and Germany.

There seems to be hostility, of sorts, between clubs and the FA and it is a shame to see a lot of players withdrawing from the England squad, especially youngsters like Ryan Bertrand. Of course, it is always hard to put blame on one party, but the impact that money has had on the sport is possibly the worst thing to happen to International football.

The increase in ‘meaningless’ international games has meant a lot of clubs are reluctant to release their players for national duty, and the footballers themselves don’t seem to share the passion of playing for their country compared to the likes of Bobby Moore and that famous 1966 team.

Until all this changes, I cannot see any transformation in fortune for England in major tournaments. Being one of the top 10 nations in the world will undoubtedly mean we will make it to the knockout stages of major finals, but realistically, we are miles away from competing with the Spain’s of this world. 

The current England squad selected for the qualifiers against San Marino and Poland have seen young talent get a chance. Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Jonjo Shelvey are just some of the names who featured against San Marino, with Manchester United’s Welbeck and Cleverley putting in equally impressive performances.

However, bearing in mind we were playing the joint worst nation in world football, it is hard to judge them on such performances. The real test came today, as Hodgson's men traveled to Warsaw just months after Euro 2012 to play a Polish side with a wealth of ability at their disposal.

The Borussia Dortmund duo of Robert Lewandowski and Łukasz Piszczek were out to get revenge on Joe Hart after his outstanding performance for Man City just weeks ago in the Champions League and proved a thorn in our side all match. A point was not a disaster, but it was a slightly disappointing performance.

However, if we hope to reach World and Euro Cup finals in the future, these are must win games, although it was a breath of fresh air to see some young talent getting a chance against a much tougher opposition. 

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