Sir Trevor Brooking writes in The Daily Mail ahead of next week's Euros.
The sheer disappointment shared by the nation following our exit from the World Cup in South Africa has underlined the importance of so many facets of the game in England, at both grassroots and professional level.
The England U19 squad was selected yesterday and they meet in Warwick on Monday to prepare for their European Championship in France which starts the following weekend.
If we want to gauge the progress of our most talented youngsters, we have to test them at the highest level. France, Holland and Austria will be formidable group opponents.
With Spain, Portugal, Italy and Croatia also qualifying, this tournament provides an exceptional opportunity to test ourselves against the best. If we want our young players to develop into self-assured individuals capable of performing and excelling at future World Cups and European Championships, they have to experience the rigours of tournament football at every opportunity.
Everything in a tournament is different to life with a club in England. The levels of focus needed, the media scrutiny, the experience of different countries and climates all add to the mix. As does the concentration of matches, in which the opposition are the best young talent.
Beyond the individual level, what is more important is to develop a way of playing, a philosophy that supports our structure throughout the levels while taking pressure off individuals and placing the emphasis on the whole.
A lot of people are citing the German system as a model for success. Every model is different, however, and we need to look at the complete picture.
It does seem one of the reasons they are having some success now is a focus on early development. This is what we are trying to achieve with five to 11-year-olds through The FA Tesco Skills programme and our Youth Award modules.
Not all of Germany’s players have had lengthy or regular club careers, but their experience and enjoyment of previous tournament football — at senior and particularly youth level — shows.
That is something we are also looking to achieve with our youngsters.
Already this summer our U17s have won their European Championship in Liechtenstein. What this underlines is that there is talent to be nurtured at every level of the game, by the England set-up and clubs.
Despite some initial reports citing conflict between clubs and our U19 management, it has been possible to agree a level of co-operation from clubs and managers to release their players for what I believe to be invaluable tournament experience.
To hear someone like Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp speaking about the importance of his young players getting England experience with us is really heartening and shows the sort of spirit of working we need to develop.
Quite simply, everyone needs tough tournament challenges, but we need access to our best players when we get the chance, for the good of our youngsters and ultimately to develop those capable of appearing at senior level for England.Sir Trevor Brooking
Director Of Football Development, The FA