Southgate backs European experience for English stars

Tuesday 04 Nov 2014
Gareth Southgate chatted to Club Wembley members
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Gareth Southgate believes the experience of playing in the Champions League can be crucial for the international development of English players.

The Under-21s head coach and FA’s head of national coaches, who won 57 caps for the Three Lions during his playing days, sees how important games in UEFA’s flagship club competition can be.

England v Portugal

International U21 Match
7.45pm, Thursday 13 November 2014
Turf Moor, Burnley FC
Live on BT Sport
Call 01282 700003 for tickets

And with a number of the England senior squad being involved with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool this season, Southgate reckons those appearances are almost as valuable as international caps.

"Club experience is key," said Southgate, who was speaking to Club Wembley members at the Hurlingham Club in west London last week.

"We can look at Germany and Spain, but it's the players' experience with Barcelona, Madrid and Munich, and playing in Champions League matches is like having another 30 international caps. 

"Being involved in semi-finals and finals, which they haven't always won, sometimes helps as the players have to experience losing and also find out why they lost. 

"The more of our senior players who are playing Champions League football is a big plus for Roy."

In particular, it’s the regular contact with some of the world’s top players at the elite level offered by the Champions League which Southgate feels is vital.

By rubbing shoulders with these players, the switch from Premier League football to the international scene should be more comfortable.

"From a player’s perspective, you want to have that feeling that you're going out and the environment isn't new to you," added the former Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough player.

England Under-21s head coach Gareth Southgate.

Southgate has led his Under-21s squad to next summer's Euro Finals in Czech Republic

"There are lots of players who don't make it for England because they don't know how to handle, not the opposition, but everything that goes around playing for England. 

"It's the pressure, you might get a half of football that will be analysed to death and you have to be able to handle that, handle going into dressing rooms with big personalities. 

"It's elite sport and you have to produce under pressure all the time. 

"I've seen lots of good players coming through international set-ups who have not been able to handle that and have been happy to go back to their clubs where they have reached a level they are comfortable with.

"The guys who used to come all the time, the Lampards, Coles, Gerrards, that's why they are top players. 

"They are the ones who had to deal with the pressure over the years, but got over 100 caps - they kept putting themselves up to be shot, that's why they are top players."

Southgate’s Under-21s are in action at Burnley’s Turf Moor later this month when they face Portugal on Thursday 13 November.

Tickets cost just £10 for adults and £5 for U16s. Call 01282 700003 to buy yours.

Click here to apply for group bookings for 15 people or more (no age restrictions and bookable in advance only): £5 adults and £2.50 concessions.

And Charter Standard clubs clubs can apply for group bookings via the attached form here.

By Nicholas Veevers