England has always had a central place in football. But you would be bemused by the fact that the country which invented football only has one World Cup to its name. Moreover, they haven’t made another final apart from that.
This is usually because of a number of reasons. While other great international football teams have come to have an identity of their own, this has not been the case for England. This has seemed more relevant in the past few decades or so. (h/t ESPN)
England had a very talented crop of players, especially in the mid-2000s. But that was ruined by a clash of egos and club rivalries. (h/t The Times) [Subscription Required] And of course, there are heightened expectations from the fans of a nation, which takes its football more seriously than most.
But all of that could change now. Why? Because England has a talented crop of youngsters. Yes, you have heard this before, but this time it could be different. Stick around to find out why.
The amount of young English talent is innumerable right now
There are a lot of young English players who are doing really well at big English clubs. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are regular features for Manchester United. The duo had a combined 39 goals in all competitions last season. (h/t Transfermarkt)
Liverpool house two of the best English defenders recently. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s exploits on the big stage are there for all to see. The now-22-year-old was the Golden Boy runner-up in 2018 and the Premier League young player of the season in 2020.
Joe Gomez, when fit, was a regular starter for the club alongside Virgil van Dijk in the Liverpool team that won its first Premier League title after 30 years. Chelsea have Reece James and Ben Chilwell, two dynamic English full-backs. Arsenal house Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
You get the idea. Every big Premier League has more or less one young English player in the first-team setup. Even Pep Guardiola’s exotic Manchester City have Phil Foden. This is helpful in one major way. Earlier, the international English team came from a selection of a few big clubs.
This led to the players from certain big clubs not communicating well with each other. This was even revealed by Rio Ferdinand, that club rivalries worked against the national team.
The 2006 England World Cup squad was dominated by players from clubs like Chelsea, Tottenham, and Liverpool. But now, there are players capable enough to represent England at clubs like West Ham United and Leeds United. Declan Rice and Patrick Bamford are two examples of this. If there are players from different clubs, rivalries can be put aside.
Even if players end up fighting with each other, the manager would have a larger pool of talents to replace the problematic ones.
The value of international experience for England
Moreover, there are more young English players playing in foreign leagues than ever before. For example, the England U-21 team has players like Jude Bellingham, Ryan Sessegnon and Jamal Musiala playing in Germany.
Trevor Chalobah, Jonathan Panzo, and Stephy Mavdidi are plying their trade in France while players like Noni Madueke and Jordan Spence are in the Eredivisie. Fikayo Tomori, on the other hand, just made his way to Serie A. These youngsters may not be world-famous names yet, but they have represented the English national team at various youth levels.
And it is important to see the bigger picture because even a handful of young England internationals going abroad is setting a trend as countries other than England are nurturing their footballing growth. Different countries have different styles of football, which provide valuable experience to these youngsters.
In a few years, there could be an English team which comprises of youngsters who have experience and knowledge of different footballing leagues. Moreover, there also seems to be a feeling of unprecedented cohesion in the English dressing room between youngsters.
Players from other clubs are often on hand to offer support and encouragement to other English youngsters on social media. Take this comment section of Dominic Solanke’s photo on Instagram as an example.
The success is also already showing. The English international youth teams are succeeding. They have won trophies in the past decade and are at a great level currently. The U-17 and U-20 teams won their respective FIFA World Cups in 2017.
The U-19 team won the UEFA European Championship in the same year. The U-17 made the Euros semi-final the very next year. This is all direct evidence of English youth teams making it at the big stage in the past few years.
England has seen a collection of individuals before, but not at such a magnitude. There are talented English youngsters, who have represented the English national team at youth level, playing in a vast variety of leagues.
While players from England did venture into these leagues before, such as David Beckham to La Liga, or Owen Hargreaves to Bayern Munich, the current bunch are ready to move to foreign leagues at a much earlier stage in their football career.
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The sheer number of young players playing in top leagues, in different styles, different systems and under a variety of international coaches offer England a new hope of a generation of young players who are ready to take on new challenges with more experience and bravery than their predecessors ever could.