Stuart Pearce’s selection of Jack Wilshere and Andy Carroll in the England  squad for the European Under-21 Championships in Denmark this summer and this has, predictably enough, reignited the club versus country debate. Luke Edwards reports.

To go, or not to go? That is the question facing Jack Wilshire and Andy Carroll, after Stuart Pearce named the Arsenal and Liverpool players in his provisional 40-man squad for the European Under-21 Championships, which take place in Denmark this summer. Both Wilshire and Carroll want to go and play in it, whereas, perhaps understandably, Kenny Dalglish and Arsene Wenger would both prefer that they rested for the summer. Wenger especially seems to be of the opinion that Wilshire would suffer burnout and that he doesn’t want him to shoulder such a burden at just nineteen years old. Patrick Barclay, on the other hand, made a strong case in favour of them going in The Times recently in stating that going to a tournament where they will be amongst the favourites will give them experience at international will benefit them in the long term.

Indeed, Barclay cited the case of the current generation of German players, some of whom were in the team that comprehensively beat England at the World Cup last summer, as a strong reason for why Wilshere and Carroll should go to Denmark. Of the German team for that match, three players – Mezut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng – all played in that final and were subsequently majorly involved in that second round World Cup game in Bloemfontain. After that tournament, all three of these players earned big money moves after that tournament – to Real Madrid in the case of Ozil and Khedira, and Manchester City for Boateng.  Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets, was part of the Spain team that won the World Cup, who also played in the last tournament, could also be regarded as having benefitted from his involvement in the European Under-21 Championships as part of the Spanish team that won the World Cup.

Barclay also argued that Wenger could let Wilshire go and have some sort of agreement with Fabio Capello for Wilshere to not be selected for England’s Euro 2012 qualifiers in September against Wales and Bulgaria (games that England should, in theory, be able to win without this one particular player) and that this sort of agreement could give Wilshere a rest which could be beneficial to the player if he is to be selected for the Euro 2012 tournament in Ukraine and Poland – should England qualify, of course. In the case of Andy Carroll, on the other hand, going to the tournament could help his both cause for selection and his fitness. Since moving to Anfield for £35m, he has shown flashes of his potential but has also struggled with injury, so playing in a tournament may help him to earn what could turn out to be vital experience which may benefit Liverpool, as well as improving his sharpness for the start of the new domestic season. Like Wilshere, Carroll has expressed an interest in going and he has been quoted on the BBC Sport website as saying:

It can only be good for my career. If you look at the Germans, when they won the under-21 tournament they went to the World Cup and had such a good tournament. It’s important to start winning international tournaments early and hopefully you can take it to the world stage.

This is where the club versus country debate comes in again as, in the case of Wilshere Wenger feels the FA have to be careful with his player whereas Wilshire has come out in the last few days in saying that he would love to play in the tournament and that he would never turn his back on his country. William Gaillard, UEFA’s director of communications and Public Affairs, said recently about how the Premier league and FA should do more to help the national team and follow the model of the Netherlands, and in doing so he branded the FA as the “weakest Football Association in Europe.” He said that:

There is no doubt that turf wars have damaged English football and the FA is probably in a weaker spot than any other FA in Europe – probably [as] the result of the overwhelming power of professional football especially as expressed by the Premier League and Football League. In other countries there is a more balanced situation. In most other countries the professional game has a minority position. English professional football has been enormously successful in producing revenues and building up the game and we have to be grateful to the Premier League and Football League for that. At the same time this has not resulted in a better situation for English football in general and performances of the national team have not been outstanding.

Gaillard argues that the Dutch model, which allows players the freedom to hone their technical skills and make mistakes at an early age, is a good path to go down and that FA should have a full time technical director, and the British government’s Sports Minister Hugh Robertson agrees:

For the 2018 World Cup bid £15m was spent and we succeeded solely in garnering one extra vote other than our own. The chairman of the Football Foundation [Clive Sherling] resigned in despair at the politicking going on around the game. The evidence is pretty clear.

So, success for the likes of Wilshire and Carroll in Denmark could prove a catalyst to not only their career as international players, which they can take into future major international tournaments but also for their footballing education in a more general sense, and this may prove, in the medium-to-long term, to be to the benefit of their clubs as well. It also may give the authorities who run the game a chance to mould a team around two clearly very talented young players for many years to come. Whether Arsene Wenger, Kenny Dalglish and other Premier League managers could care less about that, though, is a different matter altogether.

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