Another reform for the team playing below the Senior side, it has now become the U-21 team, there is question mark about the girls born between 95 and 97, as they won’t be able to play international games unless they get selected for the full squad.
Historically the second team was the U-23 team and it was created to transition the players who were competing with the U-19 side and then had to wait for years in the international wilderness before a senior call-up. I mean not many girls are ready to step up age 19 or 20 to the full squad.
When the U-23 team started to get overage players on regular basis, it got changed to the Next Gen team name to reflect the fact that 24 and 25 years old players were selected.
Now we are going down to a U-21 team, which means the girls aged 21 to 24 in for the season 2018/19 have no international prospect any more, unless they get to the Senior squad and therefore it will be harder for them to reach that level.
We know that Phil Neville and his staff are either scouting live at games or watching the videos and therefore they know the players, but nothing replaces seeing them in training camp and match day situation.
The first thing that comes to mind is the 98-2000 generation has a few diamonds, they have competed in a U-17 and a U-20 World Cup and there are many high potential players. Therefore looking at the 2021 Euros and the 2023 World Cup, the FA has decided to go with them and develop that potential.
There is nothing wrong with that concept. The FA stated they aim to win the World Cup in 2023 and if they feel those generation are well equipped to do it, it is a fair call.
Here, I am going to have a look at the generations that played at the U-19 Euros in 2014, 15 and 16 ie the girls born from 95 to 97 to try to understand why those ones have been “abandoned”, and if there are players with potential among those “forgotten” generations. It is important to note that some players from that generation are regulars with the senor team already and will be mentioned.
Note as usual with the FA website, it is hard to track down the information about the old squads and therefore I will only get a sample of the names selected in that period. You can have an idea of those squads by looking on the UEFA websites, wikipedia and other FA’s website. Shame the FA website is not easy to navigate and does not archive old data.
The players from that generation that are regulars with England seniors (3)
Leah Williamson (97) Arsenal, FA WSL
Gabrielle George (97) Everton, FA WSL
Keira Walsh ( 97) Man City FA WSL
Interestingly the three regulars with England from that generation are all younger players. They are all defensive players with two centre-backs and one defensive midfielder.
The players on the fringe / close to be selected for the Senior squad (3)
Aoife Mannion (95) Birmingham, FA WSL
Sophie Baggaley ( 96) Bristol, FA WSL
Jessica Carter (97) Chelsea, FA WSL
Mannion has a lot of competition at centre-back with Houghton, Bright, Williamson, George and McManus ahead of her in the pecking order. Does she perform better on regular basis that some of her competitors. Now only someone who has access to the full games would have a proper idea if this is true or not, because highlights only show certain moments.
One key point for me is Mannion is smaller in height than her competitors and I remember under Hope Powell one U-23 player being told, she would not make it to the Seniors because she was too small as a centre-back. At the end of the day, the centre back pairing is a question of finding a partnership and a balance. For example, you can have a slow centre-back if you have a quick one alongside her.
Baggaley also has a lot of competition with Telford, Earps, Bardsley, Chamberlain and now Roebuck who has been called up. With Telford, Chamberlain and Bardsley who is currently injured, experience is on their side to justify their selection. Earps has performed consistently well for a couple of season at least in the FA WSL and now plays, not very often, for the second best team in Europe. Her performance level is very high this season and would deserve a call-up on current form. Was it as good last year?
Now why would Roebuck would have overtaken her in the pecking order. We have to remember that strangely enough, she did not get a game at the U-20 World Cup and in all logic, she should be behind that goalie.Saying that Sandy McIver is probably not available due to the NCAA tournament taking place soon.
But, it is obvious that Roebuck has a big potential and the England coaches value the games she played with Manchester City in the League and in the Champions better than the ones played by Baggaley with Bristol in the League.
It is like an equation with multiple parameters where rating = intensity x performance x potential x behavior x factor X and it ends up with Roebuck > Baggaley for Phil Neville. Factor x could be anything like the player’s height for the centre-backs.
Carter seemed to have much more credit as a right-back under Mark Sampson and is behind Bronze and Blundell and maybe even McManus in the pecking order. Obviously no English player is a better right-back that Bronze, you cannot find me player i the world that is as good as her actually. Why Blundell is preferred to Carter, it is all in the strength and weaknesses and what the manager thinks the player can offer in his system and football style.
The players currently playing abroad
Jenna Dear (96) Valarenga, Topserien
The playmaker has played for numerous team after starring in Chelsea’s youth team and now plying her trade at the top level in Norway. U-23 games would certainly players like her who are not on regular basis in the manager’s mind as they could see how she is developing over there.
Now, we have to remember that the U-21 team is a tool for the Senior squad. As we are talking about international football, it is different from club football and the England manager is looking for players with potential that fit his idea of football. International football squads are never about taking all the best football players together.
The number of non football parameters like social interaction, players personality etc are important in a squad, because a fractured squad is a guarantee of failure in a football tournament. Off the pitch time is so much greater than to on the pitch time. And I am not even going to try to mention the squad hierarchy stuff because it is another long subject.
There are certainly a number of talented players among those born in 95-97 that could do with playing U-23 games to carry on developing their game, but they will probably have to do this with their club. Champions League football is one way to confront themselves with the highest football level, but not many players get access to it.
In Part 2, we will look at the players who are not close to being selected for the Seniors so far and are playing in the FA WSL, in the championship and at University in the USA.