England boss Gareth Southgate admits the emergence of the country’s young players in 2019 has left him enthused.
The likes of Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount have become real regulars in Southgate’s squad, while players such as James Maddison, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori broke into the senior group in the second half of the year.
And with more players knocking on the door from within the U21s squad, the Three Lions boss admits he’s looking forward to seeing their development as we head into 2020.
“We knew there were some really good young players coming through our development system, but we've always said we'll only put them in if we really believe they are good enough," he said.
“Then maybe sometimes they might need to drop back with the U21s for a little spell and then come back in, because we don't want to move lads up and not play them but we genuinely feel a lot of these young players are our best players in those positions.
“In the two November fixtures, I think the average age was just over 23, so you can see that they are a couple of years away from peeking really but they are also producing a high level of performance now.
“I've said before, the next four or five years for England with this group of players and some of the others that we know are coming from underneath, is hugely exciting.”
A sign of the talent within the current generation of players coming through in England came back in 2017 when the MU20s and MU17s won their respective World Cup competitions while the MU19s lifted the Euro title in the same summer.
Southgate has always kept a keen interest in England’s development teams and reveals that particular year allowed him and his staff to formulate some sort of plan in how to make sure those players might be integrated into the senior set up in the future.
“I think the tournament success we had with our U17s and U20s really alerted the public to what was going on, but we knew there were some very good players,” he explained.
“We weren't sure how they would marry up against the better young players around Europe and around the world, but once they had won those competitions you can genuinely say our kids are a match for those teams.
“Then we've got to get the balance right, because you need the experienced players around those youngsters to A: have the knowledge to win big matches, but B: to give those youngsters the support.
“When the games are going well they'll flourish, play well and they’ll enjoy it. But when the games are more challenging or you're behind in a game, then some young players can adapt and adjust to that immediately, but some will need time to work those things out.
“We have to get the balance right of leadership and experience while giving some of these young players their head, because we really think we should be investing in them for the long-term.”
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