In comparison are England mismanaging young starlets?

Wilfried Zaha Crystal Palace midfielder

In England, there’s always a rush, a sense of premature excitement, and you’ve got to believe that most of it stems from the lack of success and real hope from international football. England have only just been released from the traps in properly educating young footballers in the country, frantically putting together an idea while other nations are seeing the successes of their works that have long been in motion.

England’s loss to Italy at Euro 2012 saw a wave of depression sweep over the country that England didn’t have a player like Andrea Pirlo, someone who can dictate a game with such flawless fluidity and grace and round it off with a penalty that leaves everyone shaking their heads. Paul Scholes was something similar, but England didn’t know how to use him. Recently the country have been cursing their misfortune at not being able to entice the Manchester United midfielder out of international retirement.

But everything England are doing now is rushed and has a greater probability of failure than success. English football gets a sniff of a half decent youngster and the first idea is to throw him into the senior England squad. The sense of unwarranted overexcitement stretches to the assumption that England can win a major international tournament, despite showing absolutely no signs of it and disregarding the quality of other nations.

Wilfried Zaha was the latest the be forced into the limelight; a youngster who has just recently left his teenage years behind and who doesn’t know what it means to kick a Premier League ball. There’s the issue of securing him for England and not losing out to the Ivory Coast, but so much unnecessary hype has been made of this kid that unless he has a strong head on his shoulders, it could all go south before long.

Many viewers had not even seen the player perform for Crystal Palace, yet there were many who wanted Roy Hodgson to offer him a grander stage than just the final few minutes of the friendly against Sweden. Why? What good does it do to rush the development of youth in such a way?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the same last year, having only spent a few months in the Premier League before the idea of him representing England at the European Championships was brought up. What good did it do? England were not going to win the competition with him in it, yet he now seems a regular in the senior squad without really establishing himself and receiving a proper education in the U21 squad. He may be good enough for the senior team now, but that’s not the point?

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Gerard Deulofeu is one of the brightest prospects in Catalonia, Oliver Torres could light up the Vicente Calderon in a few years and Sevilla’s Jose Campana seems to be another midfield star on the rise. Forget how good Spain’s senior squad are now and the options available to them, there isn’t a sense of rushing these kids into first team duties and the pressures of the big stage before they’re ready.

Taking Deulofeu and Jese Rodriguez to the U19s European Championship is always the right move. Inigo Martinez, Alvaro Vazquez, Ander Herrera and Martin Montoya are better suited to developing at the U21s tournament. Germany are also reaping the rewards of giving Mesut Ozil, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and Manuel Neuer the room to grow into superstars.

The German national team were underperforming and needed to look to a new generation, but they did it when the time was right and the players could perform on the biggest stage. There have been suggestions that the current Germany squad are lacking a true leader and a force to take them on to international glory, but no one can dispute the endless stream of talent that is available to Joachim Low and the Bundesliga coaches.

England’s young players are forced down the avenue of sink or swim, before even being properly taught how to hold their own. Zaha was criticised for his comments about only being bettered by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and even if a sense of context is needed for his comments, it shouldn’t excuse the hype that he is now feeding off.

England are not in a position where they can be careless with their next generation. No coach in the world could have got the best out of the ‘Golden Generation,’ and yet the sole idea now seems to be to bring in the next wave but continue to raise questions when members of the old guard are missing. Let the youngsters properly develop, don’t give them an unrealistic timetable where the suggestion is reaching the semifinal in Brazil; it’s nonsensical and might only serve to write-off the next wave.

England may not always take kindly to the football on display in Spain, and they’re not totally convinced of the strength of German football. But at least look to follow their example of how to properly produce and educate young players. The fear is that England will remain a nation devoid of patience and constantly looking for the quick-fix.


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