European Under-19 stars need Premier League chances to shine

As France lifted the European Under-19 trophy on earlier this month it was hard not to consider what the future may hold for them and their beaten Spanish counterparts.

For some the immediate future is first team football, with Timothee Kolodziejczak and Clement Grenier starting for Lyon in their Emirates Cup match against Celtic a mere 24 hours after appearing in the final.

While the likes of Sergio Canales, Guieda Fofana and Antoine Grizzmann are likely to feature regularly for their clubs over the coming season.

But for many of the players, both in the final and beyond, the future is less clear cut as they return to their clubs to battle their way into first team contention.

Tottenham midfielder John Bostock, who featured sporadically for England during the tournament, gave some measure of the frustrations felt by younger players seeking opportunities.

He said: “Some of us have been given first team chances.  But bits and pieces here and there is not really enough. We look at the foreign contingent over here and it’s blocking us.

“It’s frustrating – and it’s especially hard when you don’t feel like you are given a chance.”

His frustration is clear, but his remarks about the “foreign contingent” are wide of the mark, as the situation is scarcely any different for those players who are coming into the English game young.

Two of this tournament’s brighter stars Gael Kakuta and Dani Pacheco-the tournament’s leading scorer-are two prime examples.

Both are exceptional young players, as this tournament has shown, but neither is guaranteed any chance of regular first team football when they return to Chelsea and Liverpool.

Kakuta featured sporadically last season, but with competition for places as packed as ever at Stamford Bridge he will struggle to get opportunities.

Meanwhile Pacheco, who has been scoring regularly for Liverpool’s youth and reserve teams, returns to a Liverpool team with a new manager and will continue to push his case for regular first team football.

In total five of the starting line-up in the final are registered with Premier League teams, including Arsenal duo Gilles Sunu and Francis Coquelin and Liverpool defender Chris Mavinga, but none of them have started a Premier League match for their clubs yet.

It is one of English football’s great problems, affording to opportunities to younger players-regardless of nationality. While top clubs continue to sign young players from the world over, all too often many of them get lost in the race for the first team.

While English youngsters may continue to blame the “foreign contingent” for their lack of first team opportunities, the fact is that those players are no better off than the rest.

The new Premier League rules may yet change things for the better, but even before the season has started managers have begun to rail against them. It is hardly an auspicious sign that progress has been made.

As the England football team have suffered this summer, so the spotlight has fallen on the potential on offer among the academies and international youth teams to provide hope for a brighter future, there is yet no sign that these players will get the opportunities and support to get their big break in the Premier League.

And while English players and fans may simply blame the “foreign contingent” for the failure of many to secure first team opportunities, the fact is that far from being perpetrators of the problem, these players are simply another victim of it.

The under 19 final may have shown that the Premier League is home to some of the most promising talents that Europe currently has to offer, but whether it will grant them the opportunity to fulfil their true potential is another matter altogether.

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Alex Stamp

One thought on “European Under-19 stars need Premier League chances to shine

  1. Well then the Premier League won’t be called “The Self Proclaimed Best League In The World”, no would it?

    Anyway, Pacheco was incredible this U-19 WC,
    Also these finalists also meet in last U-17, so these French and Spanish players will continue to dominate the international stage as well,

    I see the reason being that these U-19 players are in Top teams in England, which provides them with even less of a chance to play, since the Competition for Top 4 is so tough and chance/experiments can’t be made.

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