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The Non-League Football Paper

Davies column: England age groups are progressing, it’s time we gave them a chance

By Scott Davies

IT’S all well and good that we are excited by the future of the English game given the success of our youngsters in their respective global tournaments and where they go next, but the stats need to be understood.

With only 16 Premier League appearances between both the Under-17 and Under-20s squads, it shows that the pathway is blocked for our young prospects. We ask ourselves why?

Jadon Sancho is a fine example of a fine talent who has been brushed aside by Manchester City. For a measly sum of just £8million he decided it was best for him and his career to move to Borussia Dortmund.

Nowhere near the first team at City, Sancho went on to make his full debut in the Bundesliga for the German giants last month. For me, they have cashed in on him far too soon. Are the academies at our so-called Premier League power clubs a waste of time?

Look at Dominic Solanke. He was crowned player of the tournament at the Under-20 World Cup this summer. Some would argue that with England winning the competition and him being highlighted as the best player, this would stand him in good stead to be a bright light in the forthcoming season. Certainly not. Solanke has made just a handful of appearances for Liverpool this season, with the majority coming from the bench.

He felt the need to leave Chelsea in order to find first team football, as did his fellow Reds teammate Rhian Brewster. Both players saw it an insurmountable task to break through at Stamford Bridge, and for me this isn’t a negative mindset, it’s proven in statistics.

So, how will we ever break this trend? In other countries and leagues, players get a chance to perform on the big stage in domestic competitions. Our starlets have just proven to us that they are arguably the world’s best, so why not let them express themselves sooner rather than later?

Because nobody trusts them just yet, as managers are scared to throw them in at the deep end. How will they ever learn to cope with the pressures of playing in the Premier League, when they are only deemed good enough to play against players of their own age in Under-23 matches up and down the country in front of next to nobody.

Sold gold: England youngster Jadon Sancho is unveiled by German giants Borussia Dortmund

The mentality for most managers in England is that they would rather buy from abroad. Buy a player that’s been shining in a European or South American league. Let’s start giving them the chance.

If Wayne Rooney had been a youth team player at Manchester United and not come onto the scene at Everton then his career could have been very different. I’m almost certain he wouldn’t have had the chance to stamp his mark on the Premier League at the tender age of 16. Everton knew they had something special with Rooney and decided it was time for him to grace the league with his undoubted potential.

The style in which our players won these tournaments was beautiful to watch. Free-flowing football out from the back with a clear intention of building up through the thirds on the pitch.

The majority of Premier League teams play in this way nowadays, and I worry that going down the lower leagues and Non-League, to get games, could destroy them as a player.

Yes, there are two sides to a game and players need to learn to do both, but going out on loan could prove difficult, trying to settle into an alien way of how they are used to playing.

Give these players a chance to get up to standard and to get used to the speed of the Premier League. They deserve more than one chance as they need to be blooded in gradually over a period of time.

I’ve seen many players in the Premier League who have been brought in from overseas, who are of a similar age to those mentioned above, who have been given time to get to grips with the pace of the game.

Let’s not destroy our youngsters. Get them playing and the impact will be felt from the top down to Non-league.

Cheers, Scotty!

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