Should England have taken a more experienced side to Under-21 European Championship?
- Credit: PA
Gareth Southgate admits England may have to reassess their selection policy after exiting the Under-21 European Championship without a string of eligible senior internationals.
The Young Lions' 3-1 capitulation against Italy on Wednesday evening saw them crash out at the group stage for the third successive finals.
It is a difficult pill to swallow after another impressive qualification campaign and has again led to questions over the decision to overlook senior internationals.
Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all eligible, so too Phil Jones and Ross Barkley, but Southgate plumped for the players that got them to the Czech Republic.
FA technical director Dan Ashworth believes they made the right decision but former England striker Gary Lineker labelled the policy 'indefensible', saying it was an 'exasperatingly amateurish approach'.
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Southgate has defended the group of players he brought to the tournament, but suggested the FA may reassess its approach.
'It's absolutely a fair question and something we'll have to look at again as a group of national coaches,' the Under-21s head coach said.
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'I still think with Wilshere, Jones, Oxlade-Chamberlain that was the right decision because they've never kicked a ball with this group. They've had senior tournament experience.
'The only player in this tournament that goes against that debate is Carvalho (of Portugal). Everybody else has gone the route we have.
'We brought five back from the seniors. Unfortunately we lost three of them, Luke (Shaw), Saido (Berahino) and (John) Stones for the first two games. If we'd had them, the policy of bringing players in from the seniors would have been more profitable perhaps.'
Barkley would certainly appear to be a senior international whose selection would have benefited the team and the individual.
Since late last year, however, Everton manager Roberto Martinez has said the Football Association should not select the playmaker, who instead is spending the summer by the pool.
'Ross is one we've got to think about,' Southgate said. 'I still think it's not clear because he hadn't kicked a ball with me for 20 months, so to bring him into the group isn't something that would necessarily have worked.
'Carvalho had played in qualifiers for Portugal, that's why he came back into the group.
'For (Barkley's) development, would it have been something good for his experience? An Under-21 finals is a high-quality field.
'The policy generally is something I'm comfortable with because we expose this next group now.
'Would we have seen a glimpse of Ruben (Loftus-Cheek) if we'd done that? Possibly not. Jesse (Lingard) has come through as a player that if he gets a pathway with a club, he's shown on a top stage what he might be able to do.
'And had we had Saido, (Harry) Kane and (Danny) Ings as 9 and 10, would we be talking about Ross in the same way?
'It's absolutely a fair question and one we have to constantly review. We did it with Ruben - is it right to move him up?'