When will we learn? Stuck in their ways, England managers have notoriously picked players from the top clubs, and watched as they flopped when it really mattered.
Ruining young players before they are fully ready has been our forte over the years, by either over exposure to the unforgiving media, over-reliance on their talents or simply taking them away from regular competitive U21 action to sit on the bench for the “experience”.
Whether it be forcing a half fit Wayne Rooney to spearhead the England attack in 2006, taking a 17-year-old Theo Walcott without using him in Germany or simply denying the U21s the best talent in competitive competitions against star-studded opposition, the proliferation of a player means one thing – an early England call-up.
Dele Alli is the latest name to be handed the honour of a senior England call-up, after just three Premier League appearances for Tottenham.
I am not doubting the talent of the 19-year-old League One Footballer of the Year, having been blessed with an assured presence in midfield that can be rarely taught.
What has irked many after Thursday’s squad announcement for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against Estonia and Lithuania is that Alli has been added over more established, in-form names who are constantly overlooked by Roy Hodgson.
While the man who orchestrated a famous 4-0 victory from Mk Dons over Manchester United at the age of just 17 has the pedigree, if we are talking form and top level experience alone, which is what Hodgson should first consider when selecting players, Alli simply doesn’t have the game time.
It is no coincidence that the Three Lions boss was at the last three Tottenham matches. He loves his seat at White Hart Lane.
What do the likes of Jason Puncheon, Mark Noble and even Danny Drinkwater have to do to earn a call up? Puncheon has created the second most chances in the Premier League this season, Noble has been immense in victories at the Emirates, Etihad and Anfield, while Drinkwater has won praise for his role in Leicester’s impressive start to the season.
The debate could be swung either way when comparing individual player’s merits for a place in the squad, but with Roy’s admittance that his key players are likely to keep their places in the side, what will Ali learn from sitting on the bench and practicing corners on the training ground?
Alongside his fellow in-form team-mate Eric Dier in the heart of the England U21s set-up would make more sense to Alli’s development.
Why do we rush these players? A few good games and they flung straight into the international set up, without considering the long-term development of talented individuals – an age-old problem at the very top of English football.
Most worryingly of all, Hodgson rued the unavailability of Tom Cleverley in Thursday’s press conference. Another example of a player who impressed Hodgson once, and remained in his plans.
Other nations simply go on form, and are not afraid to reward players at the top of their game.
France have just recalled Lassana Diarra after a five-year absence, Italy are more than content to have Graziano Pelle lead the line despite him not playing for a top club, and Cologne’s Jonas Hector is a regular for Germany, despite a whole host of more high profile defenders ahead of him.
Whilst being fully aware Jonjo Shelvey, Ryan Bertrand and Jamie Vardy don’t play for top Premier League clubs, Hodgson had little alternative. He did when selecting the inexperienced Alli, however.
A bright international future beckons for the prestigious talent of Spurs midfield newboy, but only if nurtured in the right way.
With all the talent we have produced over the years, from the “Golden generation” in the late 80s and 90s, to the Gerrard-Lampard axis of the 00s, England should not have had to wait 50 years for more silverware.
Coming into Euro 2016 in France next year, the chances of ending half a century of hurt are unlikely with such a young team.
However developed slowly, considering all the variables that affect young men thrust into the limelight, Russia 2018 could see these promising stars turn into world beaters, and bring football home.
Yet, dragging the likes of Alli to sit on the bench on the otherside of Europe, instead of more competitive U21 action is not the answer. It hasn’t work for 50 years.
When will we learn?