Harry Redknapp has “allowed” for Tottenham youngsters to join up with England ahead of the European Under-19 Championships in France next month.
Redknapp’s new found enthusiasm for international football may have a lot to do with his status as favourite to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager at some point in the future.
However, it raises important issues about the dynamics between the Premier League and the Football Association.
Redknapp was portrayed as having done the FA a huge favour. And therein lies the problem for English football and the national team.
In their semi-final against Spain on Wednesday, Germany are likely to field Toni Kroos in place of the suspended Thomas Muller. One precocious 20 year-old for another.
Kroos was the star performer at the 2007 Under-17 world championships. Germany finished third but Kroos won the award as the tournament’s best player.
Of the England team that were beaten 4-1 by Germany in the quarter-finals, only Danny Welbeck, Gavin Hoyte and Victor Moses have gone on to play in the Premier League on anything like a regular basis.
Last year, Hoyte was the only Premiership player to feature in the England side that finished bottom of their group at the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt. The group – and the tournament – was won by Ghana, featuring such players as Jonathan Mensah, Dominic Adiyiah, Samuel Inkoom and Andre Ayew (the same players who were a penalty kick away from reaching a World Cup semi-final last week).
Nobody at the FA would admit it, but there was an unwritten rule that Premier League clubs would not have to release players for the tournament. So Jack Wilshere was not called up, even though such a stage would have been perfect for his footballing development.
Other players who were ignored by the FA included Welbeck, Nathan Delfouneso, Fabian Delph, Dan Gosling, Kieran Gibbs, James Tomkins, Freddie Sears, Jack Rodwell and Daniel Sturridge.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter criticised Premier League clubs for not releasing their players. “It’s not right that the big European clubs don’t free up their young players for the World Cup, when they are not in the first team,” he said.
“When they aren’t playing they can’t gain experience. It’s better for them to enjoy the second major world competition than to stay at home warming the substitutes bench.”
England Under-20s coach Brian Eastick – answers on a postcard if you know who he is – ignored Blatter’s comments but his team were thoroughly outclassed by Ghana in their group game, losing 4-0, and picked up one point in total, from a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan.
It’s obvious that English football needs to place a lot greater value on international youth tournaments. But to do that, the relationship between the FA and the Premier League needs to change.
And that is unlikely to happen at any time in the foreseeable future.Like Angler´s Mail blog? Subscribe to our magazine and you will be able to access our latest comprehensive content!