England's decision to omit high-profile Premier League players for their ill-fated European Under-21 Championship campaign has been defended by Football Association director of elite development Dan Ashworth.
Gareth Southgate’s side crashed out of the Czech Republic tournament following a harrowing 3-1 defeat to Italy on Tuesday evening, which also meant England finished rock bottom of Group B.
Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling, Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, Arsenal duo Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere, and Manchester United defender Phil Jones were all eligible for the competition but we not called up.
England failed to progress from the group stages for the third European Under-21 Championship in succession, yet Ashworth believes it would have stifled the development of more junior squad members had established players been included.
“We made the decision and I back it,” said Ashworth. “Youth teams are there to help develop players and give them experience to get into the seniors.
“Those players are experienced internationals. It’s like being a first-team player and asking them to come back and play in the under-21s. It’s not necessarily the right thing to do.
“The debate will be reopened now but we stand by the decision Gareth and I made. You never know when you drop players into a new group whether it’ll be the right thing to do.”