Should the FA have permitted Oxlade-Chamberlain and co to join England under-21s?

With Spain and Holland bringing top stars like Kevin Strootman and Thiago Alcantara to England's under-21 squad, should the FA have permitted top stars from Manchester United and Arsenal to join too rather than include them in a meaningless friendly?

In order to suitably celebrate their 150th birthday the English Football Association saw a friendly against Brazil at the Estadio do Maracana as the only event that befits such an occasion.

They will be privately pleased at a 2-2 draw in which Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wayne Rooney scored special goals to salvage a dire first half.

The timing of the friendly, and the previous match against the Republic of Ireland, may have suited the party-goers at the national FA, who no doubt had a brilliant few days, but they were organised without thought for the England Under-21 squad.

Roy Hodgson did his job and assembled a squad which he believed would be up to the job against Ireland and Brazil but this was to the detriment of Stuart Pearce’s team selection, as he had to exclude senior players such as Oxlade-Chamberlain, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck.

Those three individuals do have the talent to secure a place in England’s senior team and in no doubt will be in contention for the country’s remaining qualifiers (and hopefully the squad for the World Cup in 2014), but wouldn’t they gain more from participating in the Under-21 European Championship?

Add to those three players the inclusion of Kyle Walker and Jack Rodwell and England’s performance during the recent 1-0 defeat to Italy would surely have been greatly improved.

The aversion that England has to supporting its youth teams is an anomaly compared to their European competitors who endeavour to help their age-group squads by supplementing them with senior players.

A perfect example is Norway, England’s Group A opponents, who have stated this week that they will be sending over four players to Israel from the senior team once they have completed their World Cup qualifier against Albania.

Only five players in England’s squad have earned one or more senior caps, compared to Italy with six, Norway with 14, Netherlands with 12 and Russia with seven.

As usual, the freaks which are the Spanish and German youth squads only have four players with international caps between them, although they make up for it with the two shining examples of youth development in Europe.

There has been much speculation at the moment surrounding Stuart Pearce’s job as Under-21 manager due to the lack of silverware during his six years in charge.

However, he would argue that his hands have been tied by both the senior England team and English clubs who both regularly pull players from his pool of choice, at the detriment of all three parties.

“If you don't bring your best then you have to take your chance. I'll tell you now what you have to do to be successful at senior level”.

“You have to qualify with the best team, you have to take your best team to the tournament and you have to give young players as much tournament experience as possible before they step up to the senior team."

And no one can argue that Pearce hasn’t consistently delivered a platform on which those young players can prosper having qualified for four straight European finals. Instead it is the fateful short-sightedness or perhaps even ambivalence that the Football Association has in regard to youth development that has held them back.

For all of their talk about making the Premier League English and providing more first team opportunities for young players, it would be refreshing to see them actually support a youth team at an international tournament rather than arrange another chance for a long lunch.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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