This week England’s Under 17s won the European Championships for the 2nd time in 4 years. Surely now the question is can this promising form at under 17 level transfer to successes in the first team?
Since we beat Spain in the final in 2010 they players in the England team have made 958 1st team appearances. 158 of those have been for a top flight team.
The Spanish team that was beaten in that final have gone onto make 1272 1st team appearances, 315 of those have been in top flight, this is almost double that of the English youngsters and this is one of the big problems in English football, the progression of young players to the top level.
From that under 17 team 4 years ago players such as Saido Berahino, Jack Butland, Ross Barkley and Connor Wickham have gone onto play for top flight teams but only Ross Barkley has made it into the England 1st team. (I do think that more of the players from that squad will break into the 1st team).
Some of the other players from that tournament that have gone onto playing regular top flight football are Gerard Deulofeu, Paul Pogba, Yaya Sonogo and Jesé Roríguez.
Having now won the tournament twice in 4 years we need to focus on bring through all of these obviously talented players into the top teams in our country. What they don’t need to be doing is playing in a B league against Conference football teams. The pathway from under 17 European champions to playing regularly in the Premier League is exceptionally complicated when it really shouldn’t be. If a player is young and talented then they should get a chance to play regularly in the top flight but they don’t. Ross Barkley is the massive exception to that rule, more of these players that have just lifted the trophy need to be getting regular appearances in the top flight. 158 for the 2010 class is not enough. Split between the 11 players that’s about 14 games each, that’s 3.5 a year since that victory which obviously isn’t enough.
English football needs to begin building upon these successes that are happening at under 17 level if we have to have any chance of real success in the future.