England's young squad result of top coaching and more playing time in top flight

Published on: 07 July 2021

England’s current crop of super-talented, young players is the result of better coaching and increased opportunities to test themselves in the top flight, according to analysis from the Premier League.

And not only that, the future for English football on the international stage looks set fair for years to come.

Hand-wringing over a lack of talent and a league dominated by foreign stars had become a national pastime, but the current squad of England players has forced the a re-evaluation.

Not only do the Three Lions match up with Europe’s best 11v11, but there is a line-up of often youthful, eye-popping talent jostling on the bench in the hope of a start.

Bukayo Saka, 19 and Phil Foden, 21, are just two notable talents hungry for more minutes, which is an indication of the strength in depth. But, how did this happen?

Neil Saunders, Premier League's Head of Youth, says the key has been the development of the Elite Player Pathway Plan, which was introduced in the top flight and EFL in 2012 with the aim of developing more and better home-grown players.

And there is a growing body of evidence that our youngsters have improved and are now able to hold down places in the toughest league in the world.

There have been 119 home-grown debutants in the Premier League since the start of the 2019-20 season with 15 per cent of all minutes played made up by English players aged under 23, a significant increase on the five-season average.

Overall, almost four in 10 Premier League starters were eligible to play for England last season, the highest figure for the 12 years that stat has been recorded.

The EPPP took a number of steps to improve the development of young English players in the EFL and Premier League.

It categorises club academies against rigorous standards creating an incentive to improve, since the best players tend to go to higher ranked facilities. In addition, there is focus on coach training and supporting players as they move through the age groups, including better education.

And crucially, there is a far more extensive games programme - with 10,000 matches taking place each season - so that youngsters have the opportunity to test themselves at every stage, culminating in Premier League 2.

‘The EPPP was launched to ensure our clubs continued to develop more and better homegrown players,’ said Saunders.

‘We have a generation of young English players who are exceptionally talented. These are certainly exciting times and it's a culmination of a lot of hard work by club Academies.”

The quality of the national team undoubtedly points to progress, although inevitably the picture that underlies it is complex.

While the Premier League figures focus on the proportion of England-eligible players starting matches, other statistics look at the minutes played by English players.

This gives a different picture. In a detailed study in 2019, the International Centre for Sports Studies based in Switzerland (CIES) found that overall, in terms of minutes played, the involvement of English players diminished between 2009 and 2019.

However, the role of young players during that period increased, with the average age of English players falling to 26.95 years.

The implication of the CIES study is that the youngsters have been playing a bigger role in the Premier League, presumably because their quality is increasing, while top flight clubs are looking abroad for older, established talent.

And this is how it appears to be playing out at Euro 2020, where England has had one of the youngest squads in the tournament with an average age of 24.8 years, behind Turkey (24.6 years) and Spain (24.1 years).

However you cut the numbers, better coaching, combined with opportunity to play, produces better players.

Among the Three Lions, Jude Bellingham, 18; Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 24; Ben Chilwell, 24; Phil Foden; Reece James, 21; Mason Mount, 22; Aaron Ramsdale, 23; Marcus Rashford, 23; Declan Rice, 22; Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, 21, and Ben White, 23, have all come through Premier League or EFL Academies since EPPP was set up nine years ago.

And the Premier League confirms that the latest graduates are experiencing more regular opportunities to develop alongside and compete against some of the best footballers in the world, each week.

In fact, in the English top flight, 118 players were named in national squads for Euro 2020, more than the number of representatives from La Liga and Serie A, combined.

What’s more, the future looks bright, in terms of creating more top young players and opportunities for them to play, as Brexit is expected to limit clubs' access to foreign youngsters.

In 2019, the CIES study stated: ‘The excellent results obtained over the past few years by youth English selections bears witness to the conscientious efforts regarding training.

‘As to sporting competitiveness, this work will probably cushion an eventual blow linked to the introduction of more strict criteria for the importation of players from abroad [because of Brexit].

The study concluded that ‘English players have positive future ahead of them’. And who would argue with that now?

Source: m.allfootballapp.com

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