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Wonderkids need tournament education

Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley.  Three names that give every England fan hope not just of a better future, but also for a more successful present.

All three players are England internationals, but the clamour for them to play for the Under-21s in the European Championships next year has already begun.  Predictably, the clubs that pay their wages are reluctant to support the move.  The managers of the clubs are concerned that participating in the tournament will cause their young stars to suffer from burnout later in the year.  

Arsenal are likely to be most affected by the potential call-ups, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Calum Chambers and Jack Wilshere all eligible for selection by U21 coach Gareth Southgate.  Arsene Wenger has already voiced his disapproval, arguing that players selected for the national team should not also be available for the U21 squad.

Spain and Germany have won the last three full and U21 international tournaments.  This demonstrates how crucial it is for young players to have experience of playing in the final of major tournaments.  Technical ability is vital, but England’s failure in recent tournaments has also been a consequence of mental fragility and naivety.

Raheem Sterling’s suggestion that he was too tired to play against Estonia led to heavy criticism last week.  However, if England’s starlets could all be convinced to play, they know they would have an excellent chance of making history and winning the U21 tournament for the first time since 1984.  It is unlikely they would want to miss out.

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