England manager Gareth Southgate says critics of the country’s youth development scheme have been proved wrong by the Three Lions’ march to the Under-20 World Cup final.
England beat Italy 3-1 in the semi-finals in South Korea on Thursday and will face Venezuela in Sunday’s final with a chance to claim the first world title for any age-group England team since the full men’s side triumphed in 1966.
“What they have achieved is brilliant for everybody at St George’s Park but more importantly, for me, it’s brilliant for youth development in our country,” Southgate said ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Scotland on Saturday.
“Everybody knocks our youth development. Everyone says we don’t have good youth development, and people search the world to bring people in when players are under their noses.
“If we’ve got a team in a world final at that age group, why are we looking around the world?,” he said. Premier League clubs could again break their spending records this close-season with the overwhelming amount of investment going into foreign players.
Manchester City have already spent a reported 78 million pounds ($99 million) on signing Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva and Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson.
The 21 players in the Under-20 squad have played a total 76 Premier League games in their careers. While he would like to see opportunities grow at club level, Southgate, the former Under-21 coach, says this is an exciting generation.
“I know a lot of that team from when they won the European Under-17s in 2014 and the other boys who have come in have lifted them to another level. There’s a lot of talent.
“Hopefully, the world will see what is happening. This year our Under-17s were minutes away from winning the Europeans as well. “Our coaching, youth development and young players get knocked – but why shouldn’t young English players be able to achieve?
“There’s no problem with talent. That group have a very strong mentality,” he added. Southgate’s squad against Scotland is a young one with 23-year-old Harry Kane set to captain the team at Hampden Park and he could be partnered in attack by 19-year-old Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford.