Southgate says he has more than enough u21 players. But the threat of double booking remains.

By Tony Attwood

It is bad enough having one set of internationals that you can lose your players to, but now there are two.   The FA – the organisation so inept that it can’t even hold onto money give to it by Sports England –  has decided that it is a perfectly good idea for players to play for both the full national team and then drop back to the under 21 team and then come forwards again, and then…

This means that instead of players being at risk of a major injury every other summer, they can be at risk every summer (what with the u21 tourney being played every other year).  So Calum Chambers and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain can be selected for both the full England team and then turn out for the u-21 championship.

Although it is not a promise there is said to be an “understanding” that Jack Wilshere won’t go back to the under 21s.   But with an organisation as inept and incompetent as the FA, such “understandings” are worth nothing.  They don’t even understand what “spend the money on grass roots football or we’ll take it back” means.

Sadly, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain appears to have been seduced by the bright lights (!) of yet another u21 tournament.  It will be played in the Czech Republic, between 12 and 30 June next year.  Alex has picked up eight u-21 caps and is quoted as saying, “You’d never turn your nose up at something like that, but there’s a lot that goes into that because the national team have two games around the same time as the tournament.”

He went on, “There are a lot of players in the England squad that could drop back down and play for the Under-21s… When that time comes around I’ll have to think about it. Gareth might not even want me. It’s a discussion that will be had closer to the time with the England manager, someone at Arsenal and Gareth.

“It’s a good thing that people aren’t being held back to play in the senior side if the manager thinks they’re ready. At the same time I do think we take our Under-21s seriously.”

Uefa rules state that born on or after 1 January 1992 can play in the tournament but sneakily make no reference to anything about playing for the full side, then the u-21, then the full side, then…

Mr Wenger, naturally and in my view rightly, is appalled.  “My thinking about that is once a guy has moved up to the full national team and you put him down he is never good.   Apart from the fact on the selfish front for us, when the guy has played 50 games it is better he has a good rest during the summer. But most of the time, when they move down, they are not completely at their quality.”

So the benefit to the player is zero, and the benefit to the club is minus zero.  Who gets the benefit?  According to Mr Wenger not even the u-21s.

In the last under 21 finals England also qualified as they have for 2015, and were knocked out in the group stages, playing to crowds of around 10,000, and getting a very infamous nil points.

Team Pld W D L GF GA Pts
Italy 3 2 1 0 6 1 7
 Norway 3 1 2 0 6 4 5
Israel 3 1 1 1 3 6 4
England 3 0 0 3 1 5 0

This time round there is however one benefit.  For full squad players to play in the Under-21s tournament, they would have to miss the games again Ireland in Dublin on 7 June and Slovenia the following week.

The FA’s official stance is that this is a chance for the under 21s to win something, but being knocked out in the last finals in the group stages with no points doesn’t really make it seem likely.

G. Southgate, the manager, has said he will consult managers, so we shall see.  He added,  “I have been very careful throughout the campaign about who comes into the squad.  They have to have a connection with the team and desire to come and play. I never worry about who I haven’t got and I’m not going to start now…. I believe we have such depth that we can challenge whoever we are playing with whatever players we put out on the pitch.

So there we are.  England under 21 has such depth it will have no need to pull players back from the national team, play them in an under 21 team, and then send them back to the national team.   That’s good news.  As long as he sticks to his word.


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32 Replies to “Southgate says he has more than enough u21 players. But the threat of double booking remains.”

  1. I cannot understand why a player that has already been playing for the big boys should go back to play with the U21 again. Unless for clubs U21 like we will have with Walcott today who will return to a real match for the first time for the U21 to play Blackburn. Well that is at leas what I have heard.

    But for the national teams this is not really a thing to do. Certainly when a player like The Ox has been included in the world cup squad last summer.
    Hey, Gareth,
    Leave those kids alone… 😉

  2. unfortunately, for players like the Ox, he just wants to do what he thinks is right – to make a good impression. Overwhelmingly, the risk of losing players every year, and with our track record for bad injuries, it is just a recipe for disaster.

  3. What is really interesting, is that the same people who make these decisions/plans, sit behind a desk and then at the end of their ‘hard working’ year…take a nice long vacation so as to come up with more brilliant ideas!!!

    How obvious it is that they have never been athletes in their life; demanding these youngsters have NO DOWN TIME unless they are injured!

  4. These same people, knowing how busy a season our boys will have, knowing the higher risk of injuries of the long-term variety they will certainly record, knowing that this will probably impact on the club subsequently, invite them to such ‘national’ assignments anyway. Then they turn around to slag off our club for being too sof, too injury-prone etc. Those boys need some talking to. The club needs to protect them, but they need to protect themselves. They do not need this tournament t all. They need to allow some other players the opportunity to break into the scheme of things through the U-21s. They shouldnt do too much at the expense of their career and at a disadvantage to the club. Trophies will come when they will come. Boys please be sensible about this.

  5. Apo,
    That is dumb, but even dumber then that is an ex-player like Shearer, who retired from the national team in order to prolong his club career (I am not making this up!) stating that they can’t understand why a teenager, who is still growing, might be tired playing three top level games a week. Not forgetting Shearer himself was not playing internationals, premier league and champions league games as a teenager.

    More interesting then the gibberish regurgitated by these petty plundits is the pattern we have noticed with U21 players regardless of which former Defender* has been put in charge of the squad: Chamberlain gets bought by Arsenal, kind of bypasses the U21s because somehow they didn’t know about him, gets into the senior squad. Ditto with Chambers, and I think one or two others two. So this begs two questions: who the hell is scouting for the U21s, why aren’t they picking young players who need the games and minutes, not those in need of a rest! And they really should just leave a scout down at Southampton, give him a notebook too, maybe a camera, that might help them. In short, they should do their job, and leave the clubs to do theirs! Maybe the problem is that they believe it’s not just ALL the officals that have to come from North of the Watford gap, but the players too? Based upon the data we have before us that’s a fair if damning conclusion!

    It appears as if the u21 coaches or scouts don’t have the ability to spot players before they are playing at the Top Top level! Which, you know, kind of defeats the purpose in having an u21 squad.

    *hands up those who’d like to see the likes of Beardsley or someone similar in charge of the U21s, I know I would.

  6. I don’t share the views of Arsene or the Everton manager about this issue.
    First of all Roy Hodgson must decide if he wants or indeed needs the player that is being considered for the U21s. England are playing ROI in a friendly and Slovenia in June 2015, I would not think any England player is integral to those matches, you may have already put qualification as almost certain and the ROI game is a good chance to test some uncapped players who have had a good season and don’t play for big teams.

    Then Gareth Southgate must decide if he wants to pick that player.
    It must then be decided by both the club and country medical staff if the player is fit to play.
    Finally of course the player must want to play in the U21 tournament.

    It must be noted that the FA Cup final is on the 30/05/14 and the CL final is on 06/06/15 (late) so leaving a week/fortnight recovery time for any players playing in either of those before the U21 tournament.

    Calum chambers should definitely be considered, he was due to play U21 before injury to John Stone I believe and would benefit from true competitive international football. Stones, Shaw, Barkley and Alex O-C are players I think would also benefit from true competitive football. Yes England U21s were pretty abysmal last time as you say but there are signs that this is improving and with the right players there is a chance to do much better than the Senior team can manage in a tournament.
    You don’t need me to remind you what happened after the German U21s won in 2009, it’s been well documented recently and shows that it has to start from somewhere and full support and backing should be given to more youthful England squads. They are important.
    I don’t think the U21 is a great a step down as people think, some players are fast-tracked into the senior squad too quickly and would benefit more from the more competitive matches that the playoffs and tournament would bring over the general lack of quality in England’s Euro 2016 qualifying group.

    As this is Arsenal page, I will focus on Alex O-C.
    This season he has played 303 minutes out of 630 in the PL with appearances 3(4). And 2(2) in the UCL and UCLQ with 204 out of 360 minutes.
    Since joining Arsenal he has made 49(43) appearances across all competitions.
    For England he didn’t play at the World Cup due to injury.
    This season he has made 1(2) appearances playing 143 minutes out of 360.
    Last season he made 1(2) appearances playing 104 minutes and was injured for a couple of the qualifiers if I remember rightly.

    I don’t think this shows he is a guaranteed starter for either club or country certainly not as much as he would like to be. Injuries of course have played a certain part to this. It would have been interesting to see how much he would have played at the WC mind, two substitute appearances and a full 90 against Costa Rica I’d guess.

    When you say there is no benefit to anyone consider this. Many Arsenal sites have been saying that the FA Cup success is a platform for future success ie. “Success breeds success”. Difficult to quantify but confidence is such an important factor in football terms. Also they have been saying that the German contingent have increased self-belief/confidence as World Champions (if missing a lot of pre-season). Would you not see a benefit if say Chambers and Alex O-C came back having had an impressive tournament, MAYBE even winning it. Alex O-C might then (speculating) cement a more regular spot for both club and country. Increased confidence, more experience, enhanced reputation?

    Of course it is a risk, there can be quite a few games in a relatively short space of time. It doesn’t interfere with pre-season anywhere near as much as the WC. I don’t know when Arsenal’s pre-season start but I know a few clubs in my local area begin light training early/mid July. If the players want to sacrifice their holiday to play for England at whatever level then good for them, they clearly see it as a valuable opportunity to play at a high level which they get limited opportunities to do in their relatively short careers. Of course if they reach the final then they have a few weeks of and are only a couple of weeks behind the others, not a disaster.

  7. @Alain, no matter how much confidence a player gathers, his most important resource is his fitness. If he gets injured due to playing too many games or inadequate rest, then all theconfidence in the worldwill not help out.

  8. Although the U21 is a development squad, the FA still wish to win, and see this as a vital target irrespective of the damage it may do to over-used young players.

    What a bunch of absolute hypocrites!!!!!!

  9. @finsbury
    October 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    I totally agree with you my friend…the thing is besides my track and field experience in teachings against muscular ‘burn out’ and stringent methods of training/competitions in order NOT to abuse/overload of youths during body development – also applies to dogs!!!

    Yes DOGS; as I am a long time German Shepherd breeder/judge…we always stress to people NOT to OVERDO training and Competition with youth dogs…ITS NOT Rocket Science for Gods sake!

  10. I strongly believe that Clubs who have vested interest in their investments of such youth players should ‘put their foot down’ and stop this forthwith – or demand compensation for their prize athletes being BURNET OUT!

  11. @Stan The Man
    Yes, very true.
    I personally don’t understand why this needs to be an issue discussed by either managers or players now. Everything could be different come the end of the season.
    Take Alex O-C as an example. At the moment he has played less than half the possible PL minutes and around about a half if you include CL. We don’t know how many matches Arsenal will play this season apart from 38 PL, at least 8 CL, 1 LC, at least 1 FAC. Alex O-C’s playing time is likely to increase over the next month due to the volume of injuries but when those players return, is he a guaranteed starter? Doesn’t seem so. This is of course form and injury dependent I know. Say he continues the early season trend and plays around about half the available minutes. Is that burn out/playing too many games? Difficult to agree with.
    Arsenal’s season could well finish around a month before the U21 tournament begins, that strikes me as adequate rest time.
    Ultimately the player knows their body best. Alex O-C and the Arsenal/England medical teams will know whether he is capable of playing to the required standard for the U21. Only he knows if he wants to play, he should be allowed a big part of the decision. It is a big tournament with lots of talented players, I think he is right to want to play especially because he missed the World Cup 2014 due to injury. Those opportunities don’t come about often, not many players play more than 2 or 3 world cups and then there is Euros of course.

    What I’m saying is that those type of “does a player go to a tournament” decisions, club/country, are they tired/burnt out? questions should be asked and answered much closer to the time as it is somewhat irrelevant at the moment. All we know is that the U21 qualified for the tournament so some decisions will need to be made. Can they be made now? No.

  12. @finsbury
    October 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Your second paragraph is bang on too; why not make grass roots work and find new young talent which they can work with instead of continuously select players who have already been in the system through a club who was wise enough to scout and sign them??

    Suddenly Southgate and crew want to take the glory based on other peoples risks and foresight…complete IDIOTS!

  13. @apo
    I have this vision of you being angry at everything…

    If you want to talk burn out, let’s consider another U21 player. Will Hughes. My Derby County fan friend reliably informs me that he is a good talent who will no doubt grace the PL and as such is an important Derby player. He is also an England Under21 international.
    Derby are guaranteed to play at least 51 matches this season including 46 Champ, at least 4 LC and at least 1 FAC.
    Hughes has played 764 minutes (out of 990, around 77%) in the championship with appearances 9(2) out of 11. He has also played 244 out of 270 minutes in the league cup. Given his importance to the Derby team and assuming he stays injury free then he will no doubt play easily more than 40 matches and may even play a role in all 51.
    That is more of a case for burnout. The championship is a tough league aswell, lots of midweek games, long travel, pitches of lower quality, physicality of opponents etc. Will Derby fans moan if Hughes plays for the U21s in the summer. I don’t know, I do know that at least 1 is very happy for him to represent his country at a high level.

    Let’s just judge whether it is right for any potential Arsenal U21 player to be selected at the end of the season when their use and fitness is clearer to see rather than getting angry about it now.

  14. @AlainT
    October 17, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    hahahahahaha NO actually I am a very happy type of guy and tend to laugh at many things…I have been told that I have super sense of humor, but If I come across like that, my apologies – fact is I believe what I believe based on what I know and have experienced…that is what I write.

  15. The point of the article (in my opinion) is very clear; and does not question whether a player should represent his country or not…and I am sure it (the author) is all FOR any of our players representing their respective countries – BUT NOT IN TWO AGE GROUPS!

  16. “…and I am sure it (the author)…” should read “…and I am sure HE (the author)…” (apologies Tony 🙂 )

  17. @Apo
    Fair enough, no need to apologise! I was joking as CAPITAL LETTERS usually mean I’M REALLY ANGRY ABOUT SOMETHING! Off-topic.

    You are correct, the article does not suggest the player should not represent his country and indeed I do not question this. Alas that is a broader point of the “burden” of internationals rather than the privilege…

    The article does allude to no ruling against representing two age groups and swapping up and down the England mens team ladder. Also the article speaks of, along with the direction the comments have been focused, is the fitness/over-use/burn out aspect of the U21 tournament that Alex O-C has expressed an interest in playing and that Wenger and Martinez has publicly spoken against. That is what I am responding to. There is no ruling to stop Chambers/Shaw/Stones/Barkley/The Ox playing for the U21s, that can be debated now. Personally I think that at that age, competitive tournament football can bring a great benefit rather than a qualifier and a friendly. The question of fitness/protection against burn-out and whether a rest is better can only be answered much closer to the end of the season.

  18. The most important aspect of the season end is for the players, both over and under 21 to have a sustained rest, in preparation for pre season and all that is too come.

    Overall we have too many internationals and too many tournaments. We can see the knock on effect re injuries to many players following the post-World Cup period. Injuries not helped by incompetent refereeing and thug tactics.

    I agree with AW on the specific point re the under 21s, once they represent the main team and are good enough to do so, they should not go back to the lower level – it is usually asking for trouble. Didn’t we have Walcott so nobbled a few seasons ago?

  19. I agree with the article that they should not be playing in two tournaments, U21 and for England.
    Once one makes the step up, that’s it, unless one fails there and steps down.
    After all, the club pays the wages, and the player being in the 1st squad is there as a full fledged player, a squad player, that is needed when he is needed, and if he is needed and then injured or tired from a U21 game, he is not going to get the chance to play in the 1st team.

    I think they should have to choose, U21 or England, not both.

  20. @AlainT
    October 17, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    When I use capitals its not due to anger but to emphasize…so we are good on that front.

    As for representing two age groups (one of them being of course the senior national side), along with a players’ playing time at PL,FA Cup, and CL, is not only physically draining- including training/friendlies for all three (U/19’s,Senior,and PL side), but also mentally for an 18 year old BOY. Of course its only my opinion, which I have based on personal experience as an athlete.

    It wouldn’t be easy to keep up with the demands of such a schedule on a young developing body/mind, and injuries would be certain!!

  21. I admit that i have not played professional football, if any Derby games were played at anything like the intensity (& quality) of the games against Besiktas, Dortmund, City etc. not forgetting the travel (I can’t imagine the Derby players have been flying all over Europe these past two months inbetween games of football. Have they?) and energy going into the Internationls I confess that I would be genuinly genuinly 😉 surprised.

  22. Logically; we add up all these considerations, and we have a super recipe for broken down/worn out youngsters 😉

  23. @finsbury @Apo

    I didn’t help myself by presenting a midlands club as an example!!
    Nevertheless it’s a 7 hour round trip on a coach to bournemouth and if you take bournemouth/brighton to middlesborough it’s around 11 hours. Probably not including traffic. I hate coach journeys so give me a flight to turkey or germany any day of the week!
    I’m not here to defend the Championship of course. But it is a tough league, widely regarded as one of the hardest leagues to succeed in. It does require a high level of physical and mental ability to play well in. Derby I’m told do play a nice brand of passing football at a high intensity but of course this doesn’t match the level of the premier league or knockout champions league! I was just making a more general point that others in the U21 frame are very likely to play many more minutes and make more appearances than players like Alex O-C.

    The issue of burnt out players (especially at a young age) exists wider than just the premier league in terms of picking for off-season tournaments, a huge number of games are played now at all levels with all the domestic trophies and internationals both qualifiers and friendlies (remember a lot of championship players are involved at some international level). Maybe a review is needed, I don’t know. But every player is different, some seem to be able to cope with full fixture lists then off-season tournaments and others can’t. Guess that’s it really.

    Let the Ox decide if he wants to be considered and then consult with all the relevant parties at the close of the season. Simple. Very simple.

  24. AlainT

    The entire German world cup winning fitness regime was constructed around the understanding of the physiotherapists that players need as much recovery time within the intial 48hours after a game as possible. And lets be honest, they are qualified to make such a judgment. So it’s good to know that AFC have emplyed a member of that team, isn’t it? It also highlights the irresponsibilty behind those that schedule games within fourty eight hours of each other, but then broadcasters always have and always will treat athletes as cattle.

    This logic is why the German FA built their own training camp in Brazil that was designed in conjunctyion with the physios to minimise movement etc. on their days off for the players as they recovered, so well, in between those matches. It’s a high end science thesedays, i can’t pretend to be an expert but I think it’s safe to say that:

    Taking a bus or coach is not the same thing as flying to Turkey and back. And playing three top top level intense games in a week.

    As for letting players decide? Haha! That was a funny joke. Everyone knows that most players try their best ignore their physios and coaches on such matters (Tommy V, St. Jack and teh F Word just a few recent examples) and they always will.

  25. @AlainT
    October 17, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Well certainly the team you support has a very long and I should say proud enough history. Personally I have been a Gunner ever since I can remember and here we discuss the issues (that concern us loyal supporters) which burden our side week in week out.

    Maybe I speak on behalf of a few others here, when I say we don’t need for any of our players being risked more then needed to with injuries given the statistical data already published here several times; be it by unfair tackles leading to broken this that and the other to further be compounded by extra games!

    By the way Arsenal FC also have to make some long haul bus rides 😉

  26. One thing I did think is that most clubs should have a physio delegated to watch a live broadcast of the game if available. In my huimble and completely ignorant opnion it’s not always possible for a manager or coach or physio to spot a player who has picked up a niggle from the touchline, so the extra set of eyes from a different perspective would seem like the smart way forward to me if it doesn’t happen already.

  27. As for flights vs Bus rides; I don’t know of any European club that has a built in airport. Take for example the airport in Istanbul. Once one head arrived, no matter how much of a VIP he/she is, the way to baggage claim is no fun time, then you get in a coach and travel more then an hour to get to where you will stay (within the European side of Istanbul), if you have to cross any of the bridges…it could be upward of two hours.

    This kind of travel is not fun!

  28. ohhh then you have to repeat that excursive to get back to London 🙂 multiply that by all the CL (away games) and you have some serious airport to hotel transit times!

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