James calls for return to B internationals
David James, the former Three Lions goalkeeper, has called for the Football Association to bring back the England B team. James was capped 53 times at senior level for England, having played 10 times for the U21 side and twice for the B team. "If you look at the list of most-capped players at U21 level, only three were selected for the World Cup squad this year: James Milner, Gareth Barry and Jamie Carragher (who came out of international retirement for the competition). Of the rest, players such as Jermaine Pennant or Steven Taylor were never called up to the full England side, and Scott Carson and Tom Huddlestone hold three caps apiece," James wrote in the Observer. "The statistics alone would suggest that being selected to represent England at U21 level does not equate with being a talented enough player to perform for the senior side. If this is meant to be the feeder team for the senior England side, is it working?" England's last B international came in May 2007, when Michael Owen captained the side to a 3-1 win over Albania at Turf Moor. Five of the seven uncapped players in that game have gone on to play in the senior team - suggesting it could serve as a good stepping stone between the U21 side and full internationals. "The England structure relies heavily on young players progressing in a strictly linear fashion. So, what if you're a late developer? You miss the U21s boat and never get a chance to play for your country? Look at Kevin Davies, making his debut for England aged 33. The last time he was involved in the national set-up was for the U21s 10 years ago. An entire decade passed without any international involvement," added James. "[The B team] is not glamorous, it won't get you a big-money contract anywhere, not many people bother turning up to watch you and you get a funny coloured cap when you play, but I would argue that it does help the England coaching staff identify talent for the senior side. And it helps the player by giving him a chance to be involved in the national set-up - from playing international football to just being part of an England camp. Best of all, there is no age discrimination."
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