Here’s why youth holds the key to future success for Southgate’s England

After an epic World Cup run to the semi-finals for England, our football writer looks at what Gareth Southgate’s men need to do moving forward…


“No, you won’t fool the children of the revolution,” sang T. Rex’s Marc Boland in his anthemic hit of a very similar name.

Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad, both Spain and Switzerland may ultimately prove this statement wrong, however should they succeed in upcoming games against the Three Lions.

But let’s look a little further down the line and muse Boland’s philosophy from that perspective instead. Selecting a squad for England’s next two matches, Southgate has opted to drop the likes of Ashley Young, favouring the more youthful leaders of his revolutionary change such as Luke Shaw.

He’s also chosen to keep faith in 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, 21-year-old Joe Gomez and 22-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek despite his relative inactivity for Chelsea so far.

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A 20-year-old Marcus Rashford naturally makes the outfit and so adds to a quintet of players aged under 23 (Dele Alli being the fifth at 22, Luke Shaw having turned 23 in the summer).

Almost a quarter of the squad, then, are below this bracket and the average age is just shy of 25.

There isn’t a single player aged over 28-years-old and the most capped star is Jordan Henderson on just 44 appearances.

All in all, the squad has remained young as it had during the World Cup and in reality cast aside a few years over the summer. Youth, for Sir Gaz, is of paramount importance and England have never seen the likes of it before.

Those who glance briefest at this autumnal collection of countrymen, will be those who berate its lack of quality and inexperience most. They may be right.

Facing off against good opposition such as Spain and Switzerland will prove a tough test for Southgate’s lauded lions and provide them with their first challenge since the World Cup.

A group of inexperienced players may struggle under the circumstances but the results of their forthcoming fixtures are about as immaterial as possible.

By sticking with youth, Southgate admittedly gambles with his immediate successes, but simultaneously he invests in England’s future.

Should the 48-year-old gaffer (himself young for international coaching) decide to call-up the same – or a very similar – collection of players for each game until the 2020 Euros and 2022 World Cup, then he’ll have a squad at ease with one another and a group of young players well-seasoned at the highest of levels.

If he’d played it safe by instead giving the vote of confidence to a more experienced bunch, he’d probably have better luck in this year’s fixtures. But going into major tournaments in two and four years’ time respectively, he’d have seen these players drop out and leave their prodigies floundering in inexperience.

By Qatar 2022 – England’s next shot at that homecoming party – Southgate will have unified a squad of experienced players who, yes, may not storm through their first batch of games, but will certainly have found their pace in four years’ time.

After all, what’s the point in beating the opposition when it doesn’t matter if you’re then going to field a different line-up when it does?

Surely, it’d be better to struggle against Spain this time around and then have a confident, assured team to tackle them down the line.

All of this poses an issue, however, to us fickle football fans. Success may not be immediate and may not emphatically pick up the baton from where it was dropped in Russia. But, we must shut out our foreboding sense of collective doom, be quiet and let the man with the plan crack on with his job.

Hold off on the bunting now: these matches don’t matter. If they do the job Southgate is lining them up for, though, rest assured that football will come home again down the line.

By that point, no one will fool the adults of the revolution.

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What do you think?