Everton's Ross Barkley is England's star to watch at the upcoming under-20 World Cup.
Failure to progress far enough in Euro 2012 last summer has meant that the England senior national team did not qualify for a place at this summer’s Confederations Cup.
However, the England under-19 side managed to perform brilliantly in the 2012 edition of the European Championship in Estonia, topping their group and securing qualification for the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey later this month.
They will be joined by fellow European nations Croatia, France, Portugal, Greece, Turkey and Spain to provide tough opposition in their respective groups, with England being pitted against Chile, Egypt and Iraq.
The team will be coached this summer by former England international player and manager Peter Taylor, whose long playing and management career at teams in various divisions with sustained success will hopefully help him lead England’s young footballers out of Group E.
It is not his first time coaching the national youth teams, having managed the Under-21 squad between 1996 and 1999 and then again between 2004 and 2007. Furthermore he took charge of the Bahrain national team in 2011 and under his management they took gold at the 2011 Arab Games.
Taylor has announced his final squad of 21, which includes the likes of Sam Johnstone, Connor Ripley, Tom Thorpe, Eric Dier, Ross Barkley, Conor Coady, Harry Kane and John Lundstram – all of whom are being rewarded for the part they played in England’s qualification for the tournament (five of those were also part of England’s Under-17 European Championship winning team in 2010).
A number of players in the final squad are not only experienced youth international players but many of them play important roles at their professional clubs.
George Long has kept goal for Sheffield United 36 times this season in the league and finished the season as first choice, while Sam Byram played in midfield for Leeds an impressive 44 games. Others such as Eric Dier, James Ward-Prowse and Luke Williams are all breaking through into their respective senior teams of Sporting CP, Southampton and Middlesbrough, having all earned numerous run outs.
One of the stars of the squad, and a player tipped to finish his journey through England Under-16s, Under-17s, Under-19s and Under-21s and finally break into the senior side, is Ross Barkley. The midfielder has played for Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds and Everton this season and has been widely celebrated for the skills he possesses.
His Everton team mate and England international Leighton Baines has stated what a talent the 19 year old is and has predicted a very bright future for him.
“Nothing fazes him. He is such a good player and does not get fazed by any occasion. That is why he has started a couple of big games away from home and that underlines that he is starting to get the trust”.
“He has been around the first team for a long time. He has a hell of a lot of ability and is young. He will be a top player for the club”.
Under-20 manager Taylor will be hoping to utilise the Everton midfielder this summer in order to enable him and the team to progress through the tournament. However, Barkley has his eyes on a more long term vision in which the experience will progress his career.
“I've got the Under-20 World Cup coming up, so I haven't really got a summer but I'll be ready for the pre-season, for the new manager and hopefully I'll impress him”.
This demonstrates the brilliant symbiotic relationship between players and the national side which international tournaments like the Under-20 World Cup create. It is a chance for players to test themselves against the best that the rest of the world has to offer and begin their pre-season against competitive opponents.
When the season begins the young players are ready to compete for the first team and hopefully will progress to become regular starters. This in turn benefits the national team again when England can boast more youth national teams containing players playing regular football, something that some nations at the tournament cannot guarantee.
The flow of talent from the Under-17 European Championship squad of 2010 into the Under-20 World Cup squad of 2013 shows that the system is working, with players gaining from multiple experiences at international competitions, before hopefully graduating into the senior team.
Although Roy Hodgson will be busy this summer trying to plan a route for England to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil next summer, there is no doubt he will be casting an eye over the Under-20 squad to see who can make his job easier in 2014 and beyond.