Which academy has developed the most members England’s Euro 2020 squad?
It is a question I can see being added to pub quizzes up and down the country if England go on to win the championships. And the answer might surprise you.
Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aaron Ramsdale all came through Sheffield United’s academy.
When you consider that 14 of the last 16 FA Youth Cups have been won by Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City or Manchester United, you would expect players from those teams to be dominating the England team. But they are not.
When you go through the England starting XI from last night, the keeper was from Sunderland. The back 4 from Sheffield United (x2), Barnsley and Southampton.
Move through to the midfield it is the West Ham and Leeds access that has been the engine room of success.
It is only when you get to the front 4 that you see players from Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.
After Sheffield United with 4, the next most represented academy are Southampton and Manchester City with 3.
Then comes Sunderland, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea with two a piece.
With one representative are Arsenal, Aston Villa, Barnsley, Birmingham City, Leeds, Leicester City, Tottenham and West Ham.
When you dig down at the players who came through the bigger academies, a bigger story unfolds.
Whilst Manchester City might have 3 academy products in the squad, Jadon Sancho and Kieran Trippier both left without making an appearance.
It is the same story for Sam Johnstone who left Manchester United without even a League Cup appearance to his name, whilst Conor Coady’s only start for Liverpool was in Europa League group stage match against Anzhi Makhachkala.
Whilst having played over 100 games for Liverpool, Raheem Sterling spent 7 years in Queens Park Rangers’ academy before Liverpool spent £450,000 to sign him at 15. He only spent 18 months in their youth team before being promoted.
And whilst Harry Kane is still at the club whose academy he came through, he went out on loan to Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich City and Leicester City before getting his breakthrough.
This is a squad forged in those “smaller” academies, where players are perhaps not as pampered as much. Where they have had to graft to get to the top.
Maybe it is this reason why this England squad is a lot more likeable than those gone past? They do not have the arrogance of the Manchester United / Liverpool dominated teams of the 00s? They seem a lot less “media trained” and just say what they think?
It also brings up a wider discussion.
So often parents move their children to other sides of London, or other parts of the country to join the academy of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United.
They feel justified in the short term when those players dominate youth team football, but how many actually make it through to their clubs senior team?
Instead of being blinded by the big clubs, keep your kids at Crystal Palace, at Sunderland, Sheffield United or Southampton.
If England win the Euro’s, it will be a trophy forged in Sheffield, Sunderland, Leeds and Southampon.