Les Rosbifs England Under 21 – includes former Chelsea and Birmingham City men

Let’s face it, the England Under 21 side were something of an embarrassment in the recent Euro U21 tournament. Three defeats in three for Stuart Pearce’s men led many to lament the state of English football (any excuse, eh?) while the manager was heavily critical of the players not available to him, the players available to him… In fact it seems Pearce was critical of everything except his managerial performance. 

It led us to think about how an Under 21 side consisting solely of Englishmen abroad might fare in a similar competition. Looking at the starting line-up and squad below, we suspect they would probably struggle too against the likes of Italy. However there would be a fair amount of courage and some pockets of quality in the side, making the results against Israel and Norway not so clear-cut. Put a young coaching pairing of Paul Clement (Assistant Coach at Paris Saint-Germain) and Daryl Willard (Technical Director at AZAL PK) and you would have a side focused on playing good football and no shortage of style. Especially when compared to the real England U21 side we witnessed last week.

More than anything though it is a vital stocktake to see if young English footballers are actually trying to make a go of their careers out of their English comfort zones. This exercise will be repeated annually to see if the quality of the squad has improved and whether or not young Rosbifs are operating at reasonable levels across the globe.

In terms of this first instance, it is fair to say the jury is out. There are some quality players in the side (Eric Dier and Tiago Ilori in central defence for example), but then there are some glaring weaknesses. The dearth of young English goalkeepers in particular is an issue, as you will see. This is a squad though who boast 14 of their number playing top-tier football in eight different countries.

The England U21 side played 152 top tier appearances between eight of the squad last season. Our Under 21 side can lay claim to 208 top tier appearances between 14 of them, with three of them playing in a league (Iceland) that has only recently got underway. Of course, our team features players earning their crust in Scotland, Iceland and Turkey for example, but then in a group featuring the likes of Israel and Norway – well, you get our point.

Original England U21

 

Rosbifs England U21

8

Players in top flight football (2012/13)

14

152

Appearances in top flight football (2012/13)

208

Do leave your comments at the bottom of the article or discuss it on our forum. If you think you can find an eligible English Rosbif out there anywhere, let us know!

Squad selection has been based on players who would have been eligible for the Euro U21 tournament, hence a number of players are actually over 21. So long as they were under that age at the start of the qualifying tournament, they are eligible to play.

Les Rosbifs England U21

Goalkeepers:

Thomas Flynn (23; Cowdenbeath, SCO), Alex Mitchell (22; Annan Athletic, SCO), Ryan Jones (21; Richmond Kickers, USA)

The weakest area of the team, with only Flynn playing regularly at a respectable level. The former Hibernian custodian was a regular for the Scottish First Division side, who narrowly avoided relegation. Mitchell (ex-Carlisle United) and Jones (ex-Rochdale) do not play at a high level and rarely feature for their respective sides.

Defenders:

Tom Hateley (23; Motherwell, SCO), Eric Dier (19; Sporting Lisbon, POR), Tiago Ilori (20; Sporting Lisbon, POR), Josh Meekings (20; Inverness Caledonian Thistle; SCO), Jamie Lawrence (20; Jong RKC Waalwijk, NED), Shaun Hutchinson (22; Motherwell, SCO), James Hurst (21; Valur; ISL); Luke Giverin (20; Royal Antwerp, BEL)

Things look up with the defence. Dier is already in the England set-up and should be a feature of the U20 side who will go to the World Youth Cup this summer. His Sporting Lisbon team-mate, Ilori, is rumoured to be on his way to Liverpool soon. The 20 year old has played representative football for Portugal, but English parentage leaves him open to a career with the Three Lions alongside Dier.

Both Dier and Ilori are flexible enough to feature elsewhere in defence, but for this team they will be best used in the centre. Elsewhere, Hateley and Hutchinson offer plenty of Scottish Premier League experience and flexibility, while Meekings is another who would offer some good back-up. James Hurst has been a stand-out for IBV in Iceland thus far this season, with many viewing his stint in the league as a start of much greater things. It is worth remembering that he was playing Premier League football very recently. Jamie Lawrence has been schooled by AFC Ajax, while Luke Giverin has come through the ranks at Manchester United.

Midfielders:

Josh Falkingham (22; Dunfermline Athletic, SCO), Ryan Mason (22; FC Lorient, FRA), Tom Taiwo (23; Hibernian, SCO), Gary Martin (22; KR Reykjavik, ISL), Jonny Rowell (23; Waasland-Beveren, BEL), Tope Obadeyi (23; Rio Ave, POR); Dale Jennings (20; FC Bayern Munich II, GER); Andy Rose (23; Seattle Sounders, USA)

It is difficult to pick four from the midfield, such is the mix of abilities, but there is still plenty of top flight experience. Taiwo has been very good for Hibernian this past season, while Mason, who rarely featured for Lorient in France, is a very talented player who struggled for time due to club politics. Falkingham, at 22, is one of the youngest captains of a Scottish club, while Gary Martin has consistently been a top performer in Iceland. Dale Jennings is selected for the squad, even though he has now returned to England (with Barnsley), while the likes of Rose, Obadeyi and Rowell have been racking up the appearances in the USA, Portugal and Belgium respectively.

Strikers:

Dominic Dwyer (22 ; Orlando City, USA), Jake Jervis (21; SB Elazigspor, TUR), Aaron Spear (20; IBV, ISL); Lyle Taylor (23; Falkirk, SCO)

Four strikers complete the squad. Jervis, who started his time in the Turkish Super Lig like a house on fire before getting injured, is a good choice to start. He would be supported by Dominic Dwyer, who has been scoring for fun this season second tier American soccer. Lyle Taylor has been consistent for Falkirk and offers experience in that respect, while Spear is something of a wildcard selection.

All-in-all, it makes for a fascinating squad and one that would certainly be committed to the England cause. Would they have fared any better than the original Under 21 side in Israel? I will stick my neck out and say ‘yes’. The combination of greater top flight experience, open-minded players and coaches who have a good understanding of the varieties of continental football, as well as a squad who are just as hungry (if not more so) to prove themselves would have given them the chance of getting more out of the Israel and Norway matches.

What a thought.