Are the young Lions abroad a sign of things to come?
England’s youth team cultivated a huge surge in positivity and opptermism last summer as the under 17s and under 20s were crowned world champions.
A host of youngsters caught the eye and comparisons were made with Spain’s great success at bringing through a wonderful crop of world class talent. For once their was nothing but praise for the English approach to our national sport.
After the initial good will and clamour ebbed away, the very serious business of Premier League football resumed in earnest. Reality slowly set in for the youngsters who had been riding the crest of a wave all summer.
Over 60% of the minutes played in the Premier League are taken up by foreign players. It is little surprise, with so much at stake, that club’s opt for the safer option of foreign imports.
Whether you are at the top or bottom of the top flight, their is plenty to fight for. And plenty to lose.
Whether it’s a Champions League spot on the horizons or mere surivial, chances are there will be little chance for the talented young English players in the ranks, to get much in the view of serious game tine.
With the doors bolted shut for many English youngsters it’s little surprise that many are finally abandoning ship for new chances abroad.
English lads abroad are nothing new. Barcelona was founded by an Englishman in the early 1900s. Jimmy Greaves’ prolific scoring took him to AC Milan for a brief spell in ’61 and modern day superstars like Gary Linaker and David Beckham forged great careers for themselves in La Liga.
However, there is something slightly different about the current crop. They are, by and large, highly rated youngsters who have openly shunned the Premier League.
Jadon Sancho, Reece Oxford, Ademola Lookman and Mandela Egbo all had plenty of offers to remain in the confines of England’s top two divisions. All shunned it admirably for some game time and fresh development in a nation that has put player development at the core of its blueprint.
Not all have played regularly, with Egbo managing just one senior start for Borussia Monchengladbach. There is an argument to suggest that swapping the reserves of the Premier League for those of the Bundesliga is hardly progress. However this severely misses the point.
These lads are getting a chance to really show their worth and develop in a completely different, challenging environment. The language and cultural barrier is a tough one to circumnavigate.
Not an easy gap year
Dietmar Hamann said it was Dale Jenning’s poor grasp of the German language and failure to adapt to the pressures of life at Bayern Munich which cost him his chance at the German giants.
Other players like Ryan Kent failed to make and impact at lower ranked Frieburg. Its proof that such a move takes real maturity and graft.
Jadon Sancho, Borussia Dortmund’s number seven was praised recently for his candid, mature interview with the BBC as they did a feature on the former City youngster.
The under 17 World Champion has also been praised for his early performances at Dortmund. No doubt, if his game time continues to increase, his time in Germany will become more than just a brief interlude in the teenager’s development.
His exemplary attitude thus far should serve as the benchmark for all ambitious youngsters looking to cut their teeth in Germany.
Better out of it
Everton face a decision now with their talented young wide man, Ademola Lookman. The winger openly rejected Sam Allardyce’s efforts to send him to the Championship with Derby County.
Few can blame him for rejecting the demands of Allardyce. The long ball favouring manager had limited Lookman’s game time and was likely a hindrance to his development.
Lookman instead turned to high flying RB Liepzig where he duly banged in five goals in eleven games. He is now the subject of a twenty million plus bid from the wealthy Bundesliga club.
Lookman’s success goes to show that some players are better off making a gamble and going for a move abroad. Reece Oxford did likewise in his loan move from West Ham after his game time dried up. He is now in line for a return to the first team at The London Stadium.
Whether or not these spells end up as mere footnotes in the careers of the aforementioned players remains to be seen.
No doubt they will have benefited from the exposure to top class coaching and an excellent standard of football.
Gareth Southgate and his team will be keeping a keen an eye on youth after a positive World Cup in Russia.
They may well have a word in the ears of some of the other young lads catching splinters on the benches of the Premier League. That word might well involve getting the passport out.
If the early signs from these pioneering youngsters is anything to go off then the future could may well be very bright indeed.