Ross Barkley's impressive start to the season has earned him a surprisingly rapid elevation to the senior England squad (Image | Liverpool Echo)

Ross Barkley’s impressive start to the season has earned him a surprisingly rapid elevation to the senior England squad (Image | Liverpool Echo)

After my commanding performance in central midfield during game 3 of our works tournament last month (my first two efforts were poor), I was contacted by a man named Roy who asked if I wanted to appear in the Scotland friendly. He didn’t use the word “desperate”, but the tone of his voice was telling. Unfortunately, I was unavailable due to a family dinner.

The above may not be entirely true, but if England’s selection policy continues to develop along its current trajectory, I won’t be letting go of my phone any time soon.

The squad for next month’s crucial, win-or-miss-the-World-Cup fixtures against Moldova and Ukraine early next month sees two uncapped players included in Tottenham winger Andros Townsend and Everton midfielder Ross Barkley.

I am, as my co-editor Chris would hopefully agree, a great proponent of giving new players a chance at England level. I was a little tentative, but still optimistic, when Raheem Sterling was included last season after a handful of solid outings for Liverpool. The recent debuts of Fraser Forster and Rickie Lambert, too, have been sensible selections based on prolonged strong form at top flight level.

Wilfried Zaha’s inclusion earlier in the summer, on the other hand, was a little less easy to support. The precociously talented trickster has the potential to be one of England’s leading lights in years to come, but the last time a starlet was included without a Premier League appearance to their name, Theo Walcott was taken to the 2006 World Cup, wasted a space and took two years to establish himself at international level.

Barkley and Townsend fall into the same category. There is no doubting that the 19-year-old Barkley’s performances in Everton’s first two league games have been impressive, and Roberto Martinez’ system should see Barkley, if he manages to hold down the ‘Shaun Maloney’ role, given plenty more opportunities to shine. But even including the last ten days, Barkley has just six Premier League starts and a bunch of substitute appearances to his name, not all of which have been as memorable as that match-saving effort against Norwich on the opening day of the season.

After shining in Turkey and making the most of his chance amid the Gareth Bale saga, Andros Townsend could make his international debut next month (Image | Express)

After shining in Georgia and making the most of his chance amid the Gareth Bale saga, Andros Townsend could make his international debut next month (Image | Express)

Tottenham’s Townsend is a slightly different case. The pacey 22-year-old was sensational against Tbilisi in mid-week and impressed again in the Premier League at the weekend, winning the penalty that helped Spurs see off a resilient Swansea City. Before that, there were glimpses of potential in his spell at QPR last campaign, and a prolific history of loan deals that have given him extensive experience of first-team football. In five years, though, Townsend has just 19 first-team appearances to his name – nine of those in Harry Redknapp’s throw-away youth entries in the Europa League.

No-one needs convincing of the pair’s potential, especially when you read some of the analysis of their games – Everton legend Tim Cahill called Barkley the most talented footballer he had played with, and that was two years ago. But the question remains – why now? England are headed for two must-win fixtures. Would the more experienced likes of Scott Parker or even the surprisingly excluded Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been more sensible selections?

England’s options in midfield are far from sparse at present. The incumbent pair of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are both experiencing resurgences of late; Manchester United’s Michael Carrick can’t break into the team despite being the heartbeat of last year’s Premier League champions; bustling West Ham talisman Kevin Nolan continues to be consistently ignored; on the wings, Aaron Lennon, Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson have been uncomfortably forgotten.

Like last year at the European Championships, when Hodgson opted for Jordan Henderson, Martin Kelly and Jack Butland, my concern is not that youth is being given a chance; I’m more concerned with when it is being given a chance. Barkley and Townsend have practically no hope at all of featuring in Kiev. The most either can hope for is ten or 15 minutes against an already-defeated Moldova, little more than a charity cap.

Steven Caulker put England 2-1 ahead in the friendly against Sweden last November, but Roy Hodgson hasn't called back since (Image | PA)

Steven Caulker put England 2-1 ahead in the friendly against Sweden last November, but Roy Hodgson hasn’t called back since (Image | PA)

These are becoming all too common among England’s youngsters. Steven Caulker, Ryan Shawcross, Carl Jenkinson and Zaha were all given debuts against Sweden last autumn, in a humbling 4-2 defeat. Several players were then taken to the showcase away friendly with Brazil when they could instead have represented England at the Under-21 World Championships.

England, like every other national team in the world, depends on developing young players to provide competition for its established stars. There is little point, however, including a player who is not ready to contribute; better to let them continue to gain experience at youth and club level before making the step up. Shawcross, Caulker and Jenkinson have yet to be mentioned in England conversations since last November – how much damage has the Stockholm shambles done to their international careers?

More is at stake for the Three Lions over the next ten days. Let’s hope, for their sakes, that Barkley and Townsend aren’t too heavily involved.

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