There was celebration and elation in Suwon on the 11th of June as Paul Simpson led England 20s to a historic World Cup triumph. Dominic Calvert Lewin’s strike was enough to secure the title in a competitively fought game and each and every one of the players deserves enormous credit for their part in the success. But will we see this exciting generation feature in the Premier League next season?
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The Under 20s became the first side in 51 years to hold a World Cup trophy aloft and it’s a day that every single member of the team will never forget. The players are likely to remain on cloud nine for a number of weeks before the reality of their future begins to slowly creep into their thoughts.
Youth development has been a contentious issue over the past ten years with television money making it easier for Premier League clubs to do their shopping overseas. As a result, the price of English players has risen exponentially which in turn ramps up the pressure on the individual to get off to a flying start.
These World Cup winners completed just 1,094 minutes between them in the Premier League last season with goalscorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin accounting for 346 of those. His Everton teammate Ademola Lookman racked up 287 minutes with the Toffees pair amongst the more familiar names in the squad.
Captain Lewis Cook featured regularly towards the end of the season for Bournemouth and there is no reason to believe that will change next season with Eddie Howe keen on developing younger players.
Freddy Woodman was a second half hero saving a spot-kick to preserve England’s lead and he will be hoping to forge his way into Rafa Benitez’s plans at Newcastle. The 20-year-old was on loan at Kilmarnock last season with reports suggesting he’d be keen on a return to the Scottish Premier League side.
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The worrying statistic is that seven of those who played in the final did not feature for their clubs last season at all. The insatiable appetite for instant success from both owners and fans can lead to managers playing it safe and rarely risking untested youngsters in big Premier League games.
Everton appear to the trailblazers of youth development with Jonjoe Kenny, Kieran Dowell, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman all being introduced to the side slowly by Ronald Koeman with 18-year-old Tom Davies a regular starter in midfield in the latter half of the 2016-17 season. The Toffees are 10/1 for a top four finish next season in the Premier League betting odds and there is certainly a bright future ahead for the Merseyside club.
The Under 20s’ success should surely send a message to Premier League clubs that risks need to be taken if the academy players are to flourish. A loan to a Football League club may be in the offing but they would hugely benefit from competitive football at the highest level. This historic victory can only increase the confidence of the players involved – but many of them may be warming the bench for the next 12 months as sides opt to persist with their big-money signings.