Saturday 24 August 2019

Rashford calls on England to blood more promising youngsters

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford. Photo: Getty Images

James Ducker

It has been an encouraging year - let alone a positive past week - for England's young hopefuls.

Six players made senior debuts in the goalless draws against Germany and Brazil at Wembley to conclude a memorable and uplifting 12 months on the international scene for the country's next generation.

England won the U-20 World Cup in South Korea in June and, five months later, the U-17s avenged their penalty shoot-out defeat by Spain in the final of the European Championship in the summer by beating the same opponents to lift the World Cup in India.

The U-19s also won their European Championship in Georgia in July while, a month earlier, Aidy Boothroyd's U-21 team lost against Germany on penalties in the semi-finals of the U-21 Euros in Poland.

Whether England's senior side can now follow suit and end decades of underachievement by thriving at next summer's World Cup in Russia remains to be seen but Marcus Rashford is excited by the talent coming through.

The Manchester United striker turned 20 only last month but he has already established himself as a standard-bearer for England's youth after a meteoric rise to prominence over the past 20 months and hopes to see a wave of other aspiring youngsters follow his lead over the next few years.

"You're always watching for the next ones coming through," said Rashford.

"Anyone who is a proper fan of football does that naturally but it's always an exciting moment when players come through."

As promising as silverware is at youth level, it counts for a lot less if players fail to get a chance at club level and, certainly by comparison to Europe's other leading leagues in Spain, Germany and Italy, England continue to lag behind.

The 23 players who went to the U-21 European Championships with England have made a total of 90 Premier League appearances this season.

By contrast, their Spanish counterparts have gone on to play 181 top-flight games this term - 156 in La Liga and 25 in the Premier League - plus another 14 in the Champions League. And of those 156 La Liga appearances, well over half - 85 - were for the country's current top five clubs - Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal. England's U-20 World Cup heroes have not had much of a look-in at Premier League level either.

Of the 27 top-flight appearances between that squad this season, Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin accounts for 11 of them.

Similarly, while the average age of England and Germany's teams at Wembley last Friday was 24 and a half, Germany's players had won 301 senior caps between them compared to England's 112 and made 1,725 top-flight club appearances compared to England's 1,022.

"There's always room for improvement," Rashford says.

"It's a matter of how well the players are doing and how often they're getting the opportunity.

"I think we're improving as a nation in terms of promoting younger players.

"If we keep doing that then hopefully it will only be a success story.

"You hope players get a chance because everyone is a young player at some time.

"Everyone needs to be given the opportunity to show what they've got to offer their club and country."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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