Should England stars play in the 2015 Under-21 European Championships?

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Yes they should – Rhys Stevens

With the ensuing debate raging about whether England’s youngsters such as Liverpool whizzkid Raheem Sterling should be in contention for under-21 boss Gareth Southgate’s plans for next summer, the question should be; what is the harm?

The compelling argument for their inclusion is in light of Germany’s success of the 2014 World Cup after they honed a core of exciting young players from the under-21’s and bedded them into the senior squad who went on to win the trophy. Casting our minds back to the under-21 European Championship final in 2009 between England and Germany, six players from that victorious German side were lifting the World Cup in Rio this summer, while only Manchester City’s James Milner survived to grab a senior spot in the England squad. Clearly, allowing youngsters to progress on the international stage as a unit provides the senior side with valuable tournament experience.

England have some great prospects in the under-21’s including the in-form Saido Berahino and Stoke City’s Jack Butland, however the presence of figures such as Sterling and Oxlade-Chamberlain will only improve these players as they will undoubtedly benefit from their big-match experience.

I think that in England we often fall victim to bringing a player into the senior fold too early, before seeing their progress flounder. Premier League bosses such as Roberto Martinez and Arsene Wenger have slammed talk of including some of the youngsters and have questioned the motivation of those who already have senior caps, but this is arguably based mainly on selfish interest as they look to protect their players fitness.

If England want to emulate German success within the next decade or so, the FA needs to put emphasis on allowing all top youngsters the opportunity to progress and play for all England age groups. The under-21’s needs to increase in importance and not to be effectively treated as a B team; otherwise what’s the point in retaining it?

 

No they should not – Peter White

While it may initially seem extremely attractive and perhaps almost obvious to take the best eligible players to the next years under-21 European Championship, I think it’s important that people consider some of the issues that may arise as a result of taking some of the senior players to the tournament. Several Premier League managers have already voiced their concerns over the idea; it is certainly easy to see why.

Firstly, Roberto Martinez has suggested that including big names such as Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere would harm the development of the senior team and the individual players as it would effectively go against the idea of using the under-21’s to promote players to the first team. The concept of the under-21 team is to feed the senior side, yet how are the likes of Ben Gibson and Will Hughes supposed to develop into full England internationals if the likes of Calum Chambers and Oxlade-Chamberlain take their plane tickets to the Czech Republic.

You might argue that competing in an international tournament will provide the first team with invaluable experience, however none of the players being talked about were in the 2014 World Cup squad and getting them involved will surely restrict the development of the players that got the team to the Championships in the first place.

In addition, there is the ever-topical tiredness debate. Is it really worth the risk of injuring or tiring key senior players who will undoubtedly be required for the final France 2016 qualifiers next September and October? As aforementioned, many of the eligible senior stars were involved in the World Cup and two international tournaments in two years would undoubtedly be taxing – Raheem Sterling apparently needed a rest after just 10 games of the season!

As an avid England fan, I wholeheartedly wish the final under-21 squad every success next summer; however I hope that all of England’s elite will be joining me by watching it from the sofa

 

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