LONDON (Reuters) - A dearth of top-flight opportunities for young English talent should not be used an excuse for the country’s recent woes on the international stage, according to Kevin Keegan.
England have suffered a catalogue of failures at major tournaments, most recently exiting in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and to Iceland at Euro 2016.
Though Gareth Southgate’s side qualified for next year’s finals in Russia with a 1-0 victory over Slovenia on Thursday, the nature of the performance, and many of those that went before it during the campaign, provoked trepidation rather than excitement about England’s prospects next year.
Much has been made of the relative lack of world class players available to Southgate and his predecessors but Keegan, who managed England at the 2000 European Championship but quit shortly afterwards, says the influx of overseas players should not be blamed for stifling home-grown talent.
“It’s difficult with young players,” Keegan said at a global summit in London hosted by Qatar’s Aspire Academy on Friday.
”There is a terrible feeling in England that the young players are not being given a chance. But I think the truth is they are not good enough at the moment.
“They have to look at themselves and say ‘why can’t I get into the first team? Why are they bringing players from Argentina, Uruguay and Spain, Serbia?”
Keegan said managers should also be willing to play young players -- saying the best way for them to become top internationals is to learn from experienced players around them.
“They have to be good enough to start with, but if they are there is only so much coaching you can do,” he said.
”Don’t forget the value of looking and learning from an experienced player. The best way for them to learn and improve is by looking at the dedication of the top players, the way they train and you find the key. It’s not luck.
“When I was a young player at Liverpool I learned so much from Tommy Smith, Emlyn Hughes and Ian Callaghan.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis