It is fair to say that England are one of the great underperforming teams in international football. The Three Lions seem to collapse in front of the likes of Iceland or crumble out of the group stages like a team of schoolboys time after time.
But with a trio of England heroics hailing us as the best ‘boys’ on the planet and recent talks ongoing about a potential Premier League winter break, is the direction towards the senior national team finally changing, and getting closer to lifting their first World Cup since 1966?
Here, we look at five reasons to keep positive…stay with us, England fans.
5. Youth World Cup Winners of 2017
Last year, the Under-17s won the World Cup, the Under-19s lifted the Euros and the Under-20s went on to lift a World Cup simultaneously putting the Young Lions on the map as some of the most talented crop in world football.
Spain and Germany had similar trends with their youth triumphs in the past two decades and look what happened with their senior team soon afterward. Coincidence?
4. Coaching Is Better Thanks to St George’s Park
The revelation of the England youth national side is testament to the FA’s National Football Centre at St George’s Park, which began in 2012 and was inspired by models from Germany and Belgium. Huge financial backing has encouraged increased coaching staff, methods and high-end facilities at base camp.
Interestingly, England have installed a DNA programme which outlines to coaches that training sessions should be of 70% ball rolling time and the style of play should be replicated at every level. The BBC reports that this ‘consists of building from the back, dominate possession with a purpose, to be attacking and have good individual players’.
Imagine England playing with Brazilian flair or Spain’s tika-taka, there’ll be a tagline for the Three Lions for sure.
3. All Eyes on Youth Development in Fresh Formats
The Football Association organises trips to the likes of Brazil and South Korea, which has given both male and female Young Lions experience in travelling, climate changes and playing against different continental opposition that previous generations never had. This is all part of the FA’s long-term plan to get players accustomed to tournament football.
Former England pro Jermaine Jenas, stated on the BBC: “If the system works the way it should do, when they get to the senior England team they will have been there before and they will be ready.”
Additionally, the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) and club academies have even been credited for producing better technical players while keeping traditional physicality and athleticism, as well as developing the number of home-grown players into the Premier League.
2. English Players are Finally Going Abroad
With pressure for Premier League managers to gain short-term success and the reliance on quick fixes through over inflated purchases of ‘ready-made’ players – a large number of local products are left in the Under-23/reserve sides or shipped out on loan to the Championship.
In contrast, a common trend is building with the youth starting to look elsewhere. Ademola Lookman, Jadon Sancho, Reece Oxford, Mandela Egbo and Kaylen Hinds have all recently left British shores in the hope of launching their careers in the Bundesliga – in other words, left their academy for first team football at another top five European league.
With Germany’s reputation of promoting youth, this could prove vital in their development years as a professional footballer to gain exposure in a competitive league in front of a full-house stadium week in, week out.
These young English products will gain extra technical, education and a sense of maturity that one would not necessarily get in the Under-23 Premier League 2 division.
1. Premier League Winter Break Backed for 2020
In 2013, the Football Association declared that England should aim to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and win the World Cup in 2022. But for this to happen, former FA chairman, Greg Dyke warned England may not be able to challenge seriously on the world stage without changes in the Premier League.
Changes are happening though, and Premier League clubs will have a revised winter break after Christmas in coming seasons. Winter breaks happen all over Europe, with the Bundesliga getting close to a month off, Ligue 1 taking 24 days off, La Liga 18 days and Serie A with 16 days.
Perhaps a winter break alone won’t do the trick, but will we see more changes to the Premier League format in order to fit the demands for the national team and meet the FA’s future targets?