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Relegation could benefit England's future

Posted by john smith on

So England are relegated from the League A groups of the Nations League.

Wales were also relegated from League A to League B, whilst Scotland secured their promotion to League A.

But does it really matter? For me, it is a no.

Even when England made "Finals Week" in 2019 and 2021, I was not overly bothered. For me the Nations League is no more than a friendly tournament, with the aim of trying to get the bigger teams playing each other more regularly in friendlies for increased TV revenue.

I actually think that relegation to League B could also be good for England's future.

Gareth Southgate became a bit obsessed with the Nations League. Unlike me (and I feel most of the country), he saw it as a legitimate tournament. He viewed winning it as re-inforcing his "legacy" as an England manager.

This led him to play his strongest team in almost every game - at the detriment to england fringe and younger players who owuld normally have got run-outs in friendlies.

If you look at the most recent set of games, Southgate selected the likes of Fikayo Tomori, Ivan Toney,  Marc Guéhi, Tammy Abraham, James Ward-Prowse & Jarrod Bowen. None saw any game time.

Aaron Ramsdale, Dean Henderson, Trent Alexander Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Conor Coady & Ben Chilwell were also selected but did not get on the pitch.

Of the 28 players that Southgate selected, just 16 were used.

Does Southgate really need to know anymore about Harry Kane, Harry Maguire or Kyle Walker. 

What did he learn from bringing Jordan Henderson on with a handful of injury time minutes left on the clock against Germany?

Take Harry Kane.

England's captain has started 11 of the 15 England games since the Euro Champs final, and 6 of the last 8 games since qualyfing for the World Cup ended.

Is part of Southgate's legacy hoping that he becomes known as the manager that was in charge when Kane becomes England's top scorer? (Tip: No one remembers the manager who was in the dugout when Wayne Rooney broke Bobby Charlton's record).

This can be the only reason Southgate decides to start Kane against someone like San Marino.

In the 4 games Kane did not play, Tammy Abraham started twice, Patrick Bamford and Ollie Watkins once each.

Throw in Dominc Calvert Lewin and Ivan Toney, the 5 contenders to be back up for Kane at the World cup have 30 caps between them. Kane has 75.

You know Kane is going to be first choice, so why not give his back-up more game time.

We lost the Euro 2021 final because Southgate did not take Kane off (this is not Kanes fault).

In extre-time, Kane was running on fumes.

Had Southgate bought on fresh legs running at the tired, ageing Italian defence, we would have won - imagine having the option of Michail Antonio on the bench for those last 30 minutes with his power and pace. Or Dominic Calvert Lewin or even Marcus Rashford down the middle.

But Southgate is reluctant to select these in friendlies, Nations League and less qualifiers. So he will be even less likely to give them a chance in games that matter.

And it is not just Kane.

The likes of Henderson, Maguire, Walker and others continually get picked, which means those on the fringes never get a chance to show what they can do - and the result is we are seeing a lot of England's younger players now picking to play for their parents countries.

My hope is that England's relegation could be a good thing.

It will result in "easier" fixtures and might lead to us taking the competition less seriously. And then a bit like teams in the Europa League, England might use the Nations League to give some competitive international time to fringe players and the host of exciting young players we have.

Playing some the U21s in Nations League games will also free up some of the blockage in England youth systems.

9 of the 25 players in the most recent U21 squar were 22. These guys should really now be on the fringes of the senior squad.

And in turn, those better U19 players will be promoted to the U21s. Playing at a higher level pushes them to be better players.

It is time Southgate used the Nations League as an entry point to more competitive games for fringe and young players. And that will benefit England come the next Euros.

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