England Six Years On

There is a recurring argument that is almost conventional wisdom in England. The argument is as follows

‘the reason why young English footballers are not playing at the top of the domestic and european game is lack of opportunities. Your young English John Smith is being squeezed out to make way for an Spanish Jesus Smithio or a German Johann Smithzer.’

It is an argument repeated up and down the land amongst football fans and pundits that these players might be good enough but they are never given the chance. Now what I decided to do was put this hypothesis to the test. Do young English players get the chance as compared to countries who I would consider to be England’s footballing rivals. To do this I decided to go back to the under 19s 2007 teams playing six years ago. Players from this age group should now be playing football consistently if not internationally then at least at a high level. So lets then compare the teams from this year for England, France, Spain and Germany. More specifically the squads they sent to the 2007 UEFA European Under 19 Championships (For England this means taking the team that played in the last game of qualifying as they didn’t make the tournament). It seems reasonable that if other countries gave their youngsters more chances these players should have played more games than the English players.

Lets see how this panned out. The German team that lost in the semi-finals of the competitions was as follows

  • 1 Martin Männel – 166
  • 7 Jerome Boateng – 166
  • 3 Arne Feick – 118
  • 4 Benedikt Höwedes – 159
  • 5 Alexander Eberlein – 163
  • 2 Daniel Schwaab – 194
  • 10 Anis Ben-Hatira – 104
  • 13 Manuel Konrad – 111
  • 15 Max Kruse – 143
  • 17 Mesut Özil – 211
  • 14 Sebastian Tyrala – 45

These players have accumulated 1,580 professional appearances of which 740 were in top divisions.

The French team that lost in the final was as follows

  • 1 Johann Carrasso – 83
  • 3 Paul Baysse – 164
  • 4 Garry Bocaly – 113
  • 18 Jean-Yves Mvoto – 106
  • 13 Granddi N’Goyi – 124
  • 17 Quentin Othon – 53
  • 7 Etienne Capoue – 177
  • 8 Malaury Martin – 49
  • 10 Bakary Sako – 227
  • 11 Steve Pinau – 43
  • 14 Kévin Monnet-Paquet – 174

These players have accumulated 1,313 games 735 of which were in top divisions.

The winning Spanish team was as follows

  • 13 Sergio Asenjo – 122
  • 2 Victor Díaz – 168
  • 3 Javier Cantero – 126
  • 5 Jon Echaide – 174
  • 12 Pablo Gil – 74
  • 14 Mikel Sanjosé – 121
  • 7 César Azpilicueta – 205
  • 11 Carlos Coto – 161
  • 15 Daniel Parejo – 169
  • 9 Emilio Nsue – 173
  • 10 Aarón Ñíguez – 162

The victorious Spanish team have played 1,655 games. Out of these 467 were played in top divisions.

The English team that got a consolation victory against the Czech Republic was as follows

  • 13 Francis Fielding – 173
  • 18 Jack Cork – 232
  • 14 Stephen Darby – 120
  • 3 Scott Golbourne – 221
  • 9 Danny Haynes – 249
  • 7 Sam Hewson – 87
  • 17 Rossi Jarvis – 187
  • 16 Craig Lindfield – 150
  • 6 Michael Mancienne – 155
  • 15 Chris Martin – 208
  • 12 Ben Turner – 149

The English team have played a total of 1931 games. This is the most out of any of the four teams. However, only 143 of these games were played in a top division.

As can be seen the England under 19 players have received far fewer chances in the top division and none of the English players can be said to have become regular performers at the top division clubs. Michael Mancienne played top flight games but has been frozen out at Hamburg. Jack Cork is now second choice at Southampton and Ben Turner has only just broken into the Premier league this season with Cardiff. The English crowd is hardly setting the word alight.Whereas not only have players from Spain, Germany and France played more top flight games but they have produced players like Mikel San José, César Azpilicueta, Daniel Parejo, Mezut Ozil, Etienne Capoue amongst others who are now enjoying top flight careers.

You could look at this and think that it is irrelevant. It could be argued that there are other young English players who are getting first team chances but they were not in the under 19 side of 2007. In a way though this is even more concerning. In an age group where the FA is supposed to be identifying the best talent and giving them every advantage at achieving sporting stardom England lag far behind Spain, France and Germany. So the evidence suggests that English players aren’t getting top flight chances but is this because, English players aren’t good enough or because, the FA is unable to identify the best talent at a young age. Neither is very good for the future of the English game.

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