LONDON, July 16 (Reuters) – England’s lack of up-and-coming footballers is a serious concern for the national team, former striker Michael Owen said, blaming changes in social behaviour.
“Nobody comes home from school, knocks on 10 doors and asks if they fancy a kickabout. I used to run home from school to get my ball,” Owen said at a training day in Wales for young players.
“If you look to where the best young players are coming from they tend to be from countries where football is seen as a way out, an escape.
“England are not in a great position although we still have some good players,” Owen, who made his debut for Liverpool as a 17-year-old and was in the England team at 18, was quoted as saying in Tuesday’s newspapers.
The 33-year-old former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle United striker, who retired at the end of last season after a spell with Stoke City, was speaking after the England Under-20 and Under-21 teams were eliminated in the group stages of both the European and World championships without winning a match.
“I would have thought we will qualify for the World Cup,” he added. “If we don’t get beaten in Ukraine we should be okay but nobody thinks we are going to win the World Cup.
“We will still produce players but whether we have the pool of players we need is debatable.”
Last month, a survey by the International Centre for Sports Studies showed that five clubs – Manchester City, Chelsea, Stoke City, Swansea City and Wigan Athletic – fielded no English player under 21 years old last season.
The survey also found that only 35 English players under 21 played in the Premier League, appearing for 2.28 percent of the total number of minutes in the season, the lowest comparable figure among the top five European Leagues.
On Saturday, new FA chairman Greg Dyke said one of his immediate priorities was to get more young English players appearing at the top level for the leading clubs but admitted that it might be easier said than done. (Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Clare Fallon)