England U21 squad highlights Gareth Southgate's problem

Three Lions Wembley

England's squad for the summer's U21 European Championships has been announced, but the breakdown of it tells a story about Southgate's thankless job.

The UEFA U21 European Championships tournament runs from 17th to 30th June and takes place in the Czech Republic, with England drawn in Group B alongside Italy, Portugal and Sweden. 

U21 coach Gareth Southgate named his squad for the finals on Wednesday morning and immediately sparked widespread comment as much about the players missing as the players included.

Absent from the list were Manchester United's Luke Shaw, Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, Arsenal's Jack Wilshere and Everton's Ross Barkley, despite Southgate claiming he was "able to pick them". Though with England's senior squad facing two games in June - a friendly with the Republic of Ireland and a European qualifier in Slovenia - it was never likely that these names would be selected. 

Undoubtedly the squad has some quality in the forward positions, with Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane - as expected - being included alongside West Bromwich Albion's Saido Berahino and the much sought-after Danny Ings and Patrick Bamford of Burnley and Middlesbrough/Chelsea respectively.

Where most discussion lies is in the breakdown of clubs represented in the 27-strong squad.

Only four players have come from teams finishing in the top four of the Premier League - Callum Chambers (Arsenal), Nathanial Chalobah (Chelsea), Jesse Lingaard (Manchester United) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea) - while nine players have come from clubs currently competing in the Championship.

Furthermore, two players - Ings and Michael Keane - have just been relegated from the Premier League.

These details highlight the thankless task that Southgate faces, with the top clubs reluctant to release their best young players, coupled with the fact that the country's young talent are having to find games at clubs struggling in mid-lower table in the Premier League, or worse still in the second tier.

Following England's depressing showing in 2013, when Stuart Pearce lead his young charges to three straight defeats in the finals in Israel, many observers will be keen to see if England have made any progress in the last two years.

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