I am a huge football fan, I am English, I am a huge England football fan, but for the life of me I don’t see the point of the England U21’s.
If there is no other football on I will cheer the U21’s on and happily watch the game, then again I am just as happy watching Wrexham vs Eastbourne Borough so (and with no offence intended) I will watch any football really.
I see two main problems, the first is a lot of people feel the U21’s are a stepping stone towards the senior squad but only a few ever make it, the other problem being that if you are good enough at a young age you are likely to be fast tracked to the senior squad without making an appearance (Rooney and Owen between them only made one U21 appearance)
A good example of U21’s not making the grade comes in the form of David Prutton, (and please don’t take this a criticism of Prutton himself) he is now 29 years old, so technically still in his prime, playing for Swindon Town in League One, he made 25 appearances for the U21’s which puts him joint eighth on the list of most appearances yet never made the step to full international.
Prutton is only the beginning of the list, here are the names of a couple of players you may never have heard of that played for the U21’s yet not only did they not make the step up to the full squad but they never made it with the club they were at.
Chris Vinnicombe – 12 U21 caps – Currently manager of Tiverton Town – Played 27 times over five years for Rangers, highest level in England was League one.
Mich D’Avray- 2 U21 caps – Currently manager of Bloemfontein Celtic in South Africa – Played 200 times over eleven years for Ipswich Town between 1979 and 1990.
These two players were given hope that they would one day represent England in a full international when in reality they never, ever had a chance, yet because they were the right age at the right time they have both got themselves U21 caps.
If we look at the last squad the U21’s used I would say that 75% of them will never make the step up and once again the point of the U21’s is questioned.
England U21’s squad Vs Romania:
- Frankie Fielding – Blackburn.
- Scott Loach – Watford.
- Alex Smithies – Huddersfield.
- Ryan Bertrand – Chelsea.
- Kieran Gibbs – Arsenal.
- Phil Jones – Blackburn.
- Martin Kelly – Liverpool.
- Michael Mancienne – Chelsea.
- Micah Richards – Man City.
- Chris Smalling – Man Utd.
- Kyle Walker – Spurs.
- Marc Albrighton – Aston Villa.
- Tom Cleverly – Man Utd.
- Jack Cork – Chelsea.
- Jordan Henderson – Sunderland.
- Henri Lansbury – Arsenal.
- Fabrice Muamba – Bolton.
- Danny Rose – Spurs.
- Jack Wilshere – Arsenal.
- Nathan Delfouneso – Aston Villa.
- Daniel Sturridge – Chelsea.
- Danny Welbeck – Man Utd.
From this squad, only Gibbs, Kelly, Richards, Jones, Henderson and Wilshere will be able to make the grade regularly at senior level, others may join the one-cap brigade but will never get further than that, I feel sorry for Frankie Fielding as he has plenty of talent but the fact that Joe Hart is still so young will mean he will never get a chance to play more than a handful of games for England.
There are complaints when players are not allowed to represent the U21’s when they are eligible, Jack Wilshere will be required by Stuart Pearce for the upcoming European Championships but the general consensus is he will not be allowed to go, I completely agree, even at 18 he is good enough to make an impact at senior level so why send him off for this pointless tournament when England have full internationals he will be required for.
The U21 set-up was used as a punishment back in 2007 when Theo Walcott became the first person to ever make his U21 debut after already winning a full cap, he had a dip in form and wasn’t deemed good enough to make the full squad so he was “sent” back to the U21’s to play, a completely pointless and humiliating way to deal with a player.
This level of the game will always exist and no matter how many people fail to see the point of it, there will be twice as many that will say “Alan Shearer, Gareth Barry, James Milner” and so on, who did their time in the U21’s and then commanded a place in the full squad.
I say, surely these guys would have made it to the main squad regardless of the U21’s, and I’m fairly sure I’m not the only one.
Marcus J. Mitchell.