By Oliver Birch
Following a brilliant qualifying campaign for the England U21 side, which included nine wins and one draw from their 10 games, and a 3-2 victory over Germany towards the end of last month, confidence amongst the young squad could not be higher. Two late goals from Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse saw the Three Lions overcome the favourites for the eight-team tournament, after Jesse Lingard’s low drive cancelled out Phillip Hofmann’s opener; before the Kaiserslautern youngster restored Germany’s lead. And the victory was made even sweeter for England, considering the likes of Harry Kane, Ross Barkley, Saido Berahino and Luke Shaw were all unable to play, due to involvement with the England senior squad or due to injury. The aforementioned players could all feature and play a key role for the U21 side this summer, but there are fears that their clubs could block call-ups, which would be a “national disgrace” according to former England striker Gary Lineker. “If clubs try to pull their players out, it would be a national disgrace,” Lineker tweeted. “England beat Germany. Add a few from the seniors and they could win the Euros.” And he’s got a point. Has there ever been a better time for England to build a successful group of young players for the future? Considering England’s lacklustre World Cup campaign last summer, a potentially successful European U21 Championship could be just what England’s young players need. The chance to gain experience in a major tournament against Europe’s finest U21’s surely outweighs the need for players to play friendly matches for commercial purposes, doesn’t it? As a manager, wouldn’t you want your young players to gain valuable experience and develop as a footballer, rather than make them play in a friendly match? The likes of Kane and Berahino have both had fine seasons in front of goal, bagging an impressive 47 goals between them. Their development can only flourish should they be given the chance to play this summer.