Ben Burgess column: Give the World Cup winners a chance
What an amazing year of achievements for England's youth sides.
The Under-20s were crowned World Champions in June, the Under-19s became European Champions a month later and now the Under-17s are also World Champions.
Not only did the Under-17s have to beat footballing heavyweights Brazil and then Spain to win the tournament, they also did it in a country with many difficult conditions to adapt to.
India has a completely different culture, climate and food than we have, but no excuses were made.
The final itself was played in front of 65,000 supporters and England showed amazing character and resilience to come from 2-0 down to win 5-2.
Clearly there are some brilliant young footballers emerging in England, but how do we go about ensuring that even a fraction of those players achieve the levels they are capable of?
The first and probably biggest obstacle is getting them into first teams.
I talked recently about the fact that 84 per cent of players who played in the Champions League quarter-finals were playing regular football at 17 years old.
That time is now for those youngsters, but which manager will be brave enough to give them a chance?
Manchester City had four players in the squad and one of those was Phil Foden, who scored in the final and was player of the tournament.
He looks an unbelievable talent and Pep Guardiola already has him training with the first team everyday, but is training enough?
Will he get ahead of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling?
Is Pep’s job secure enough for him to give the youth a chance?
The only English players who have played even semi-regular football at 17 are Dele Alli at MK Dons and Marcus Rashford at Manchester United.
In Rashford‘s case, he was thrown in at the deep end by a beleaguered and desperate Louis van Gaal, who was in the midst of an injury crisis.
We should be celebrating these achievements but also protecting the players from the more unsavoury characters that will suddenly appear in their lives, the hangers on tempting them into the darker side of life.
Then you have the unscrupulous agents looking to cash in on someone else’s fame.
These players will be told that they need a bumper pay rise, that they should be driving around in Ferraris and wearing the latest designer gear.
It’s inevitable that a proportion of the youngsters will fall for these many trappings of fame and believe their own hype.
The ones that remain sensible and grounded and are at a club that gives them a chance will be the minority, but, fingers crossed, there will be enough of them to turn the England senior side into a successful, trophy-winning group over the next 10 years.
Hopefully being managed by someone with more tactical nous and personality than current encumbent Gareth Southgate.
On the subject of managers that get the best out of youngsters, Gary Bowyer was vociferous last weekend in his disapproval of Blackpool’s performance at Northampton Town.
Bowyer went as far as to describe the game as one of the worst he’s been involved in and even apologised to the travelling fans.
Tomorrow’s FA Cup fixture at Boreham Wood will be another massive challenge.
I’ve played in these types of games and it’s tough because if you win then everyone just says it was expected, but if you draw or lose then it’s catastrophic.
I expect there will be a reaction from the players and they will get through to the next round.
Fianally, I would also like to say that the junior football rules printed and discussed in last week’s column are not the ones under which the Blackpool and District Youth League operates.