How Gareth Southgate And The FA Can Nurture The Next Generation Of England Players

The biggest coup was the former Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo, now at Monaco, signing the outstanding young defender Jonathan Panzo, 17, an Under-17s World Cup winner, from Stamford Bridge. Another Spurs academy boy Keanan Bennetts, 19, has left for Borussia Monchengladbach. Matt Bondswell, 16, has left Nottingham Forest for RB Leipzig. The path trod by the likes of Sancho and loanees Mount (Vitesse Arnhem) and Ademola Lookman (RB Leipzig) has worked for them. Liverpool saw off interest from Monchengladbach in Rhian Brewster. Dietmar Hamann’s brother Matthias is now one of the many German scouts assessing English development football.

As for the FA, it can only refine its programmes to give the best experiences to the elite boys it takes from clubs. The Elite Player Performance Plan is seven years old and the hope is that it will produce a higher level of footballer. The senior team’s achievements at Russia 2018 has offered inspiration to a new generation of boys - and girls - who may be able to choose from different international allegiances. It is a start, but when the FA looks at France, for example, there is so much ground to make up.

The process never stops. As long as the Under-19s finish in the semi-final of their Euros they will be assured of a place at the Under-20s World Cup in Poland next year. A few bad years, a missed generation and the effect will be felt further down the line by the senior team. Should England seniors fail at a World Cup or Euros then all that hard work put in at St George’s Park, and at junior tournaments few watch, can be swept away by a tide of public opinion. One that can as unforgiving in the bad times as it is euphoric in the good.

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