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Martin Samuel: Let these young Lions put the pride back into England

28 Mar 2011 00:54:03

Martin Samuel: Let these young Lions put the pride back into England

Star in waiting: but will Andy Carroll play for England's Under 21s in the European Championship? For a chap who has been around international football management for more than a decade, Stuart Pearce, England's Under 21 manager, sometimes appears almost charmingly naive. He has allowed a number of his players to return to their clubs following the match with Denmark last week, resting them from another friendly game with Iceland in Preston on Monday night. By doing this, he hopes to curry favour and have his generosity reciprocated when it comes to the European Under 21 Championship in the summer. Good luck with that. The attitude of the clubs to England's Under 21 needs are best summed up by the first line of Mel and Kim's 1987 pop hit Respectable. The one that goes: 'Take, take, take, take, t-t-t-t-t-take, take.' Already an almighty row is brewing with Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur over Pearce's plan to send his strongest possible squad to Denmark in June, which could include Jack Wilshere, Andy Carroll and Kyle Walker. Wilshere has already announced he wants to play and Fabio Capello, the England manager, says he will support him in this, despite his involvement in the first-team squad. Indeed, Pearce could take an even harder line if he wished. Theo Walcott, born March 16, 1989, is still eligible for a competition featuring players born from January 1, 1988 onwards. The resistance to participation simply would not happen in other countries, which is why it does not seem unreasonable that the Premier League elite make a contribution to England's hopes of success. Yet when has reason ever been a factor in our self-defeating club versus country debate? Germany, the winners of the 2009 European Under 21 Championship, had four players with senior experience in their starting XI for the final against England. Manuel Neuer, Andreas Beck, Gonzalo Castro and Mesut Ozil were already first-team players when they defeated Pearce's team 4-0 to lift the trophy. Dan's the man: Young Chelsea striker Sturridge, who is currently on loan at Bolton A year later, and no doubt still buoyed by this success, Neuer and Ozil were part of a German senior team that thrashed England 4-1 at the World Cup in South Africa, along with other more recent promotions from the Under 21 campaign, including Jerome Boateng and Sami Khedira. Italy and Spain routinely send young players who have broken into the first team to Under 21 contests. Why? Because they're in it to win it, and have this old-fashioned notion that a positive experience as a young player creates a winning tournament mentality when older. Bright future: Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell The psychological frailty of English players on the world stage is renowned, yet faced with the opportunity to address this, Pearce is reduced to striking futile bargains in the hope his benevolence will be remembered. The argument that he will exhaust the players seems pretty baseless when one considers Carroll has been absent for more than two months, injured, while Tottenham are so reliant on Walker they have loaned him to Aston Villa. Even Wilshere has not been in the starting line-up in 13 of Arsenal's 49 matches this season, and is frequently substituted in the second half, spending 304 minutes, the best part of a further three-and-a-half games, on the bench. There is genuine hope for England here. This is an opportunity to send a squad to Denmark who, alongside Wilshere, Carroll and Walker - leave the Walcott debate for another day - also include Micah Richards, Chris Smalling, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Rodwell, Marc Albrighton, Danny Welbeck, Josh McEachran, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge. This is a good team, these are good players. It is not unthinkable that, if successful, some could advance to find a place in Capello's squad in time for the 2012 European Championship. We have to encourage this. The fear of burn-out is greatly overplayed anyway. Ozil was man of the match in the 2009 Under 21 final, and again when Germany defeated England at the World Cup 12 months later. And did he look burned out to you?  South Africa's football team will no longer be called Bafana Bafana - it translates as The Boys, The Boys in Zulu - because sports minister Fikile Mbalula thinks the name is not imposing enough. Players, not nicknames, give a team strength. South Africa's footballers could be called the Charging Rhinos and, if they played as they did at the 2010 World Cup, they would still be going out in the first round; by contrast, Spain could be known as the Mincing Girl's Blouses and would remain the best in the world.  On the face of it, Fabio Capello's decision to return the Champions League players who started Saturday's match against Wales to their clubs seems eminently sensible. There is a risk of a game too far, particularly with individuals such as Frank Lampard, John Terry and Wayne Rooney, who have been troubled by injuries in the last year. Capello must, however, also guard his relationship with those clubs further down the Premier League food chain, who might come to resent what will be seen as preferential treatment for more powerful rivals. West Ham United, for instance, play Manchester United on Saturday, and are fighting for the right to stay in the elite. Without Scott Parker, their influential club captain, the battle would be all but lost and there will certainly be some firm opinions inside Upton Park about Rooney getting seven days to prepare if Parker is forced to endure what could be a robust friendly against Ghana, shoulder injury permitting. Key man: Scott Parker (bottom) will be crucial during West Ham's fight against relegation The same goes for Aston Villa, who, in their present predicament, would argue that an away match at Everton on Saturday is no less important than Tottenham Hotspur's visit to Real Madrid the following week, and that Darren Bent, Stewart Downing and Ashley Young are every bit as worthy of protection as Michael Dawson. These pacts and favours become minefields for an international manager - witness the furore over the injury sustained by Liverpool's Steven Gerrard against France - and, in trying to be fair, Capello risks alienating others. This is a dangerous game, particularly when the current group started out with four times as many members of Aston Villa's squad as there were representatives of Manchester United.   The latest scheme to make the 2022 World Cup in Qatar feasible is a cloud-making machine. So air conditioning will chill the arenas and fake atmospherics will blot out the sun. Would it not have been easier to play the tournament in a country where a breeze and cloud cover are taken for granted? Anywhere but Qatar, in fact.   It's child's play, Mr Watmore It is amusing that Ian Watmore, the former chief executive of the Football Association, claims he could get nothing done during his time there due to the many vested interests, because my 10-year-old managed it.   More from Martin Samuel... Martin Samuel: Time to grow up and hear this... Capello is on to a winner 27/03/11 Martin Samuel: Capello is best man to lead England despite captaincy furore25/03/11 MARTIN SAMUEL: Sorry, but Liz simply didn't light my fire24/03/11 Martin Samuel: Deafening silence ends the John Terry affair22/03/11 Martin Samuel: England's giant Johnson never believes in fairytales 20/03/11 Martin Samuel: Dark days when the Premier League stars fail to shine20/03/11 Martin Samuel: The day Johnno pulled the rug from under the Irish18/03/11 MARTIN SAMUEL: Music's the real casualty of the karaoke nurses18/03/11 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE  In November 2007, Robert, who was then Redbridge District's goalkeeper, took a day off school to travel to the offices of Sir Trevor Brooking, the Football Association director of technical development, to discuss goal and pitch sizes and their effect on the progress of young footballers. One of the questions Rob asked was why, as a primary school pupil of average height, was he now required to protect the same area as Petr Cech? It took four years of heckling from various quarters but, this week, the FA unveiled their proposals for the future of youth football. Under eight-level teams will play five a side, then seven a side to Under 10, nine a side to Under 12, and 11 a side from there. Pitch sizes will be adapted accordingly, which means the curse of big kids being played at the back and instructed to aimlessly lump the ball forward just to clear the area should be history. The blueprint included some direct evidence from youngsters. 'As one boy told the FA, "Why do I have to defend the same size goal as Petr Cech?",' it read. That was Robert, bless him. It's too late now, of course. He is 13 and prefers hockey these days, although he did get to keep goal for his school last year in a national final played at Burton Albion. And, if anyone asks about his football career, he can always claim that at the age of 10, he shouted loud enough and made sufficient fuss to be part of a campaign that actually looks set to change some rules for the better. This is more than Watmore achieved, for all his self-serving whinging to his pals in Parliament. And while we're at it... The British Olympic Association, in their desire to select a truly representative Great Britain team for London 2012, intend picking players from all four home nations, despite opposition from the Football Associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The individual players will then be able to decide whether to disobey the authorities and join up. This should suit all parties. The fear is that a one-off event becomes the thin end of the wedge and threatens national identity, with football's governing bodies then lobbying for a Great Britain team to compete in all international events. Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, says this will not be the case but few would hang a dog on his word. All by myself: Gareth Bale could be the lone Welsh representative in the GB team at the London Games Logical compromise is therefore required: so the Great Britain team will not be officially endorsed by Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but a talented player such as Gareth Bale will not be denied the right also to be an Olympian if he wishes. It would help, though, if the BOA would hurry up and appoint the Olympic coach so the idea travels from drawing board to page.   Lille, top of Ligue 1 in France, are being held up as the epitome of Michel Platini's financial fair-play model. Sensible ownership, a strong youth policy, realistic transfer spending and a clear path forward. Of course, it helps when a new stadium, transforming Lille's capacity from 18,000 at the Stadium Lille Metropole to 36,000 at the new Grand Stade Lille Metropole, is being built entirely with local authority money as part of the infrastructure for the 2016 European Championship. As a result, Lille's budget is estimated to rise from ?52million to ?70m, giving them considerably more clout when UEFA's regulations change. Convenient, isn't it?   If you want to talk scandals in football, the biggest in recent memory is that the planners of our Olympic Stadium ignored the fabulous model of the multi-purpose Stade de France outside Paris and went instead for a hugely expensive, one-dimensional venue with a fixed running track, making its legacy such a hard sell to the sole sport that could sustain it. Yet those responsible for this colossally expensive error, former London mayor Ken Livingstone, former Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell and London 2012 chairman Lord Coe, are not being dragged before the Parliamentary select committee into football governance to explain their actions. Input is required from the usual parade of sycophants, old pals and over-promoted time servers, but nothing from the trio who perpetrated the greatest missed opportunity in British sporting history. And what will we get out of it? In all likelihood, an independent Football Association, which should be a step forward, but in reality usually means more cushy jobs for the sort of useless politicos who came very close, despite all recent experience in cities such as Athens and Sydney, to creating another Olympic white elephant: because if West Ham United had not been prepared to take on the athletics facility, the stadium would have had to be knocked down.   At first, Manchester United's decision to pursue a lone protester, Thomas McKenna, through the courts for damaging their business seems rather heavy-handed. On closer inspection, however, there are two sides. McKenna posted the names and addresses of 400 of United's corporate clients on the internet. This hardly makes him Osama bin Laden, particularly as the names of United's biggest backers are over the doors of corporate boxes and plastered on advertising hoardings around the stadium, but there may have been a darker motive, that of intimidation. Protest: Many Manchester United fans have made peaceful demonstrations against the Glazers The majority of Manchester United supporters have expressed their aversion to the Glazer family by peaceful means, but a minority have not. The odd director, the odd player, has had a visit from balaclava-wearing extremists. United Supporters for Change, the organisation who received McKenna's information, claim to be a non-violent, direct action protest group, but clearly not everybody who visits their site will be Gandhi in a green and gold scarf. It is this fear that was being played upon, even if the evidence that the leak had any direct impact on United's business is scant.   The bungled rescue mission to aid Japanese casualties of the tsunami reached a new organisational low last night, when a crack team of 12 highly trained sniffer dogs dispatched from London arrived in South Korea's capital Seoul by mistake. Korean airport staff thanked the British Government and said they were absolutely delicious. Oh, come on. You've all heard them by now. And in that one at least the joke is on us, not the victims. The sick stuff is out there, though, and some of it ended up on the Facebook page of Leeds Rhinos prop, Ryan Bailey, who was forced to apologise. As was Liverpool player Jonjo Shelvey, when a photograph of his privates ended up on Twitter, giving a whole new meaning to the Spot the Ball competition. A friend posted the picture, apparently, after discovering the image on Shelvey's mobile phone. One often wonders how good English football could be if the players were not so singularly obsessed with sticking a Blackberry down the front of their trousers. It is also worth wondering why clubs go to all the trouble of appointing vast, overbearing media departments when, the minute most of their employees are given access to a social networking site, they demonstrate all the capacity for self-censorship of a touring gangsta rap band broadcasting live at midnight from a crack house in Detroit.  Martin Samuel: Grow up and hear this... Fabio Capello is on to a winner England U21 manager Pearce releases five players ahead of Iceland clashWales 0 England 2: Wilshere shows some Barca form to answer Fabio's style challengeCrocked Manchester City ace Richards to learn FA Cup semi-final fateGerrard insists Carroll and Suarez are better for Liverpool than TorresWelbeck the key as United prepare to pounce for Everton star Rodwell  Explore more:People: Ryan Bailey, John Terry, Ken Livingstone, Petr Cech, Ashley Young, Andy Carroll, Sepp Blatter, Theo Walcott, Michael Dawson, Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck, Osama Bin Laden, Gareth Bale, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Trevor Brooking, Fabio Capello, Jack Wilshere, Stewart Downing, Ian Watmore, Frank Lampard, Tessa Jowell, Darren Bent, Wayne Rooney, Stuart Pearce Places: Sydney, Seoul, Paris, Athens, Liverpool, London, Scotland, France, Germany, Wales, Qatar, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Denmark, Ghana, Northern Ireland, Spain, United Kingdom, South Africa, Olympic Stadium Organisations: British Government, British Olympic Association, Football Association


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