Will we see the ‘Best England’ at the Under-21 European Championships?

The England Under-21s will be heading to the European Championships in the Czech Republic this summer but how strong will their squad be? Jamie Ives weighs up what sort of team we should see in June.

If Roy Hodgson is to be believed, it will be as strong as head coach, Gareth Southgate wants it to be. And with FA Chairman Greg Dyke’s ‘England DNA project’ well under way, there is added pressure to perform this summer.

The England Manager said in November that: “My policy is this: After Gareth Southgate has picked his squad, I will pick my squad”. This is a clear indication that should he wish, Southgate will be able to take senior players such as Jack Wilshere and Raheem Sterling to the Euros as they are eligible to play for the Under-21 squad.

Any player born on or after 1 January 1992 can play for the Under-21s in Czech Republic so players up to the age of 23 could feature for Southgate’s side.

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When speaking to the Mirror in December, Southgate went on record stating that: “If players haven’t been with us for the qualification campaign and are only being parachuted in five days before, well what about the work we have been doing?” And he has a point.

The current Under-21 teams consists of many players that will fall short of the ‘ideal team’ if everyone that is eligible travels to the competition. Though surely they have earned their place in the team by getting the team through qualifying without losing a match (W9 D1 L0)?

There will be a strong cases made that England should take the likes of Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the championships if they are to have the best chance of winning. But in recent years, the players with senior caps tend to stay in the senior camp.

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Other European nations take their best players to any youth competition as it gives younger players the opportunity to experience the tough demands of tournament football before playing in a World Cup or European Championship.

Though that has not been a system used in England, so who will be on the plane to the Czech Republic in June?

For England to be successful at senior level it is pivotal that the younger players are allowed to develop, not only to gain experience at international level, but also to pick up that vital experience of playing in a major tournament. Especially if they have a squad with a much talent to choose from as the current crop.

In order for England to develop as a football nation, Southgate has to take the best available squad and he must be given time to work with them. A strong Under-21 side with a common agenda and understanding of what needs to be done will be overwhelming favorites to win this summer.

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Winning the Under-21 European Championship for the first time in 31 years would be a huge boost for the nation and could propel the senior team to further success in years to come. Much like the Germany Under-21s did in 2009 as their senior team then won the 2014 FIFA World Cup five years later.

This is arguably the best possible England Under-21 starting XI that Gareth Southgate could choose:

Goalkeeper: Jack Butland (Stoke City)

Defenders: Calum Chambers (Arsenal), John Stones (Everton), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United).

Midfielders: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Tom Carroll (Tottenham – on loan at Swansea City), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Ross Barkley (Everton).

Striker: Harry Kane (Tottenham).

Is this England's best possible starting XI for the Under-21 European Championship? (Via Lineupbuilder.com)

Is this England’s best possible starting XI for the Under-21 European Championship? (Via Lineupbuilder.com) 

Who do you think deserves to start for the England Under-21s at this summer’s tournament?

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Should Petr Cech seek a move away from Chelsea?

The ever-professional Petr Cech featured in Chelsea’s 3-1 League Cup victory away at Derby County last night but that is only his fifth appearance of the season.

His first team chances have been limited by the impressive, young Thibaut Courtois, who has adapted to life at Chelsea exceptionally well.

Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, had to make a difficult decision to drop the Czech Republic legend for Courtois as he risked losing him on a permanent basis after successful long-term loan spell at Atletico Madrid.

Cech has a decision to make himself on whether or not to call time on his 11-year Chelsea career.

Petr Cech has a number of personal accolades and has written himself into Chelsea folklore, with penalty saves in the FA Cup final and Champions League final (in the game and the shootout).

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He’s now in a similar position to Carlo Cudicini, the man who was a fan favourite at the club but was replaced by a young Cech in 2004.

Cech can take a lot from Cudicini’s decision to wait another three years of infrequent appearances to depart from the club, as he wanted to remain part of a history-making squad.

Cech’s Chelsea honours:

  • Premier League: 2004/05 – 2005/06 – 2009/10
  • FA Cup: 2007 – 2009 – 2010 – 2012
  • League Cup: 2005 – 2007
  • Champions League: Runner-up 2008 – Winner 2012
  • Europa League: Winner 2013
  • Chelsea’s all-time clean sheet holder

The difference between the two is that Cech has won almost everything possible with Chelsea and it could be time to seek a new challenge.

A possible destination would be Real Madrid, who have a decision to make themselves with the future of Iker Casillas still in doubt. The Spanish international has struggled for consistent form and there has been continuous speculation over where he will go next.

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A move to Madrid would see Cech link up with former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, with whom he enjoyed Chelsea’s first double winning season in 2010.

To this point, Cech hasn’t expressed any desires to depart but as we know, all footballers are frustrated at a lack of playing time, especially when many refer to him as one of the five best goalkeepers worldwide.

Do you think Petr Cech should move on?