Following England’s disappointing showing at the U21 European Championship, the football association have defended their selection policy.
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Gareth Southgate’s much-fancied side were dumped out of the competition at the group stage, having only managed three points from their three Group B matches.
Admittedly, England were drawn in a tough group, but despite overcoming an opening defeat to Portugal with a 1-0 triumph over Sweden, they ultimately came bottom of the group following a 3-1 defeat to Italy.
Upon their elimination from the continental youth showpiece, former Republic of Ireland defender and BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson was just one high-profile figure to have criticised the FA and Southgate’s selection policy.
“They would win it with the top players by miles,” Lawrenson began, speaking to BBC Sport.
“They seriously would. Those players in midfield or up front would have won this competition very, very easily.”
Among the players overlooked by England were Liverpool’s wantaway forward Raheem Sterling, Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Everton’s Ross Barkley, and Manchester United’s defensive pair Phil Jones and Luke Shaw.
Despite all of the aforementioned quintet having represented England at senior level, none were chosen, a decision which Dan Ashworth, FA director of elite development, has defended wholeheartedly.
“We made the decision and I back it,” Ashworth told BBC Sport.
“Youth teams are there to help develop players and give them experience to get into the seniors.”
He went on to explain the FA’s decision: “Those players are established internationals. It’s like being a first-team player and asking them to come back and play in the U21s. It’s not necessarily the right thing to do.
“The players who hadn’t competed in the two-year cycle and lead-up to the European Championship wouldn’t be considered.
“The debate will be reopened now but we stand by the decision Gareth and I made. You never know when you drop players into a new group whether it’ll be the right thing to do.”