This month sees the under-21 European Championships kick off in Denmark where England’s young lions will be looking to go at least one better than their predecessors, who lost in the semi-finals to hosts and eventual winners The Netherlands, back in 2007. The current squad includes several players who have a substantial amount of Premier League experience under their belts, which can only have a positive effect on performances.
Much controversy has surrounded the squad in recent weeks creating a club versus country row, yet again. Arsene Wenger claimed Jack Wilshere, who would undoubtedly have been the star man for England, was too tired to play in the tournament and therefore he wasn’t selected in the final squad. A decision which I believe could be detrimental to England’s chances not only in this tournament but in future senior tournaments. How can we ask young players to perform at a World Cup if they have little experience of ‘tournament football’?
England kick off this Sunday against Spain, whose senior side were last year crowned World Champions. I’ve picked out 3 players that I think will be crucial to England’s chances in the tournament:
The fact Manchester United have raced to sign the young wonder-kid tells you all you need to know about the tough tackling centre-back. The 19 year-old has managed to make a very creditable 25 appearances for Blackburn Rovers this season, despite spending a substantial amount of the season on the sidelines. His robust tackling will be vital in keeping clean sheets against some of the brightest young talents in Europe and although he is yet to score a league or international goal, his job is to defend, and that is what he does. There is no doubt that Jones will be a valuable addition to the Manchester United squad for seasons to come.
It’s safe to say that this time last year Sturridge was yet to show his true talent to the football world. The Chelsea striker had seen chances come few and far between as competition was fierce at the Premier League champions. However he jumped at the chance to join Bolton Wanderers on loan in January where he did step up and he truly stole the show. 8 goals in 12 games has meant interest to sign him on a permanent basis has soared. He has also represented England at various age groups, scoring a wealth of goals. His goal-scoring form at the end of the season and recently for the under-21’s will no doubt send him to Denmark full of confidence. In my opinion if Sturridge is on form, England have a very, very good chance of succeeding.
He’s 20 years old and already has over 70 club games under his belt, a remarkable achievement. The former Sunderland midfielder certainly caught the eye of many rivals in the Premier League this season with Liverpool moving quickly to sign the promising youngster. His ability to pick out a pass can be compared to the recently retired legend, Paul Scholes. There will be a wealth of players in the tournament who have skill and flare but what Henderson possess which many do not is a passion for the shirt. His performances for Sunderland show a desire to win for the name on the front of the shirt, not the name on the back – something that is rarely found within the modern-day footballer. I hope that Henderson can show this passion in Denmark allowing him to control the flow of the game, much like Jack Wilshere would do, if he were selected.
I wish the Under-21’s the best of luck in Denmark and I hope that they can show their senior counterparts what it takes and means to win an international trophy. Jack Wilshere and Andy Carroll missing out, the latter due to injury, will be a huge loss to Stuart Pearce’s side but as a high percentage of the squad now have experience of football at the top level, they have the ability to do very well and regain footballing pride for the nation.
By Hannah Burrows – Stoke City fan – @HBscfc