Is Pearce underperforming with our youth team? England U-21s rotten record

There was plenty of frustration from England fans after the U-21s were comfortably beaten by Norway in the UEFA Under-21 European Championship at the weekend. A lot of the anger was directed at Stuart Pearce, the manager, who often gives the impression of someone who doesn’t have a clue.

In 2007, when Pearce first got the job, the U-21s made it to the semi-final of the tournament and in 2009 they reached the final. These achievements are all the more impressive when you consider England’s awful record in this tournament prior to his appointment. Between 1990 and 1998 England failed to qualify for the UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship, they failed to make it out of the group stages in 2000 and 2002, before again failing to quality in 2004 and 2006.

In fact, under Pearce’s guidance, reaching the semi-final in 2007 was the U-21s greatest achievement in 19 years, whilst reaching the final in 2009 was their greatest achievement in 25 years.

Whilst I don’t see Pearce as the man to bring our young players through so we have a future team that can rival that of Spain’s, I also don’t understand the furore concerning their performance in the latest tournament. The greatest players England have seen for ten or twenty years didn’t get anywhere in the European Championships when they were in the U-21s, but for some reason, this year, everyone has an opinion on England’s lack of progress.

Also, it’s important to that note that unlike most other European countries, England don’t take their best players to the tournament. Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Rodwell and Kyle Walker were eligible to play and were selected by Pearce, but none of them played.

Let’s look in more detail at England U-21s history from 1996 onwards, which coincides with the beginning of the development of England’s so-called “Golden Generation”.

1996 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship – did no qualify

Hosted in Spain. England finished 2nd in the qualifying group, ahead of Ireland, Austria and Latvia, but behind Portugal, therefore didn’t qualify for the knockout stages.

Selection of players in England U21s squad in qualifying and who later made appearances for the senior squad: David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville, Robbie Fowler, Sol Campbell, David Unsworth and Trevor Sinclair.

Scotland, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Spain qualified. Italy beat Spain in the final, whilst Scotland lost to France in the Third Place match. Parma’s Fabio Cannavaro was voted Player of the Tournament.

1998 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship – did not qualify

Hosted in Romania. England finished top of the qualifying group, ahead of Georgia, Italy, Poland and Moldova. Greece and England were the two worst first placed group winners. Greece defeated England in a playoff to qualify for the tournament.

Selection of players in England U21s squad in qualifying and who later made appearances for the senior squad: Nicky Butt, Lee Bowyer, Emile Heskey, Phil Neville, Jamie Carragher, Rio Ferdinand, Richard Wright, Kieron Dyer, Danny Murphy.

Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia Spain and Sweden qualified. Spain beat Greece in the final, whilst Norway beat Netherlands in the Third Place match. Barcelona’s goalie Francesc Arnau was named Player of the Tournament.

2000 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship – group stage

Hosted in Slovakia with revised rules. The initial qualifying groups lead to further groups involving 8 teams. England finished top of the qualifying group, ahead of Poland, Bulgaria, Sweden and Luxembourg. England finished third in the next group stage behind Italy and Slovakia.

Selection of players in England U21s squad in qualifying and who later made appearances for the senior squad: Frank Lampard, Jamie Carragher, Ledley King, Danny Murphy Danny Mills and Luke Young.

Italy beat Czech Republic in the final, whilst Spain beat Slovakia in the Third Place match.

2002 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship – group stage

Hosted in Switzerland. England finished top of the qualifying group ahead of Greece, Germany, Finland and Albania. England finished bottom in the next group stage behind Italy, Switzerland and Portugal.

Selection of players in England U21s squad in qualifying and who later made appearances for the senior squad: Gareth Barry, Jermain Defoe, Scott Parker, Jermaine Jenas, Peter Crouch, Alan Smith, Bobby Zamora, Luke Young and Paul Konchesky.

Czech Republic beat France in the final. Sparta Prague’s Petr Cech was named Player of the Tournament.

2004 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship – failed to qualify

Hosted in Germany. England finished 3rd in the qualifying group behind Turkey and Portugal.

Selection of players in England U21s squad in qualifying and who later made appearances for the senior squad: Michael Carrick, Gareth Barry, Joe Cole, Gareth Barry, Peter Crouch, Michael Dawson, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Bobby Zamora, Paul Konchesky, Chris Kirkland, Francis Jeffers

Italy beat Serbia and Montenegro in the final, whilst Portugal beat Sweden in the Third Place match. Parma’s Alberto Gilardino was named Player of the Tournament.

2006 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship – failed to qualify

Hosted in Portugal. England finished 2nd in the qualifying group behind Germany but then lost to France in the play-offs.

Selection of players in England U21s squad in qualifying and who later made appearances for the senior squad: James Milner, Darren Bent, Glen Johnson, Michael Dawson, Carlton Cole, Scott Carson, Kieran Richardson,

Netherlands beat Ukraine in the final, whilst Heerenveen’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was named Player of the Tournament.