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England U20 Squad: The Premier League will be to blame if the talent is squandered

Monday 12th June 2017
England U20 Squad won the World Cup final on Sunday in South Korea. But the talent in the squad will likely be squandered once more and the Premier League is where the blame will lie.

The England U20 Squad lifted the World Cup trophy on Sunday, thanks to a 1-0 win over Venezuela. It is undoubtedly an impressive feat that should be praised and celebrated. It is always wonderful to see young, English players excel on an international stage, proving that we can produce talent at youth level.

Through following the tournament, especially through the wonderful world of Twitter in the aftermath of their 3-1 semi-final win over Italy which was the performance and result that thrusted the team into the media limelight, I saw a few tweets that joked about the future 'Where are they now?' articles that will inevitably be written about their unfulfilled careers when the time comes around:
While the tweets are meant to humour and in no intention are supposed to be derogatory or negative towards the evidently talented group of players currently in the under-20 squad, there is, unfortunately, a veiled, but nonetheless valid, point behind them: England has a shocking 'talent conversion rate.'

I have quote-marked that phrase as I cannot think of a more accurate description for the failings of the system. But the point still stands. The names of enormously talented young players who have failed to deliver on their potential, for a variety of different reasons, from injury to lack of opportunity to lack of work ethic or desire to succeed, roll off the tongue like sloppy school dinners. Ravel Morrison, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Jack Grealish, Michael Johnson. All were touted for great things. All, to varying degrees, failed to deliver.

And there is one very clear and very obvious reason for the obstruction of the development of home-grown talent: the Premier League. While we all gawp over the skill of the many foreign players that come to these shores to entertain us, it is difficult to ignore the detrimental impact that they have on English players.

Of the current under-2o World Cup squad, there are 72 Premier League career appearances between every player. Adam Armstrong, of Newcastle United, who was on the bench for the final, leads the way with 15 Premier League appearances. It is hardly an experienced side.

And that is the crux of the issue for many of these players. Dominic Solanke, for example, will sign for Liverpool when the transfer window opens on July 1st. Although Jurgen Klopp is a manager who is willing to place his trust in young players, how many opportunities will Solanke enjoy when he is fighting against the likes of Saido Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino for playing time? Add to the mix a £50 million Mohamed Salah and it's nigh on impossible to see him playing whatsoever.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a wonderfully, gifted, combative central midfielder in the Arsenal ranks. He is playing under a manager renowned for his tutelage of young players. And yet, last season, Jack Wilshere was loaned out because there were too many options in the squad. What chance has Maitland-Niles got of securing first-team football without going out on loan?

This is an issue right across the board, at every club for nearly every single player. The reason it is such a barring problem is that the managers of the clubs are doing nothing wrong. Why should Wenger care about how the development of young, English players is going? Why should Klopp prioritise the England youth over the Liverpool first team? They shouldn't. The manager's role is simply to do what he thinks his best for the club. Rarely does that involve young, English players.

The Premier League is killing the development of talent and there's very little that can be done about it. I guess I'll see you in 2028 reading another 'Where are they now?' article.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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