Shelvey’s departure a sign of wider malaise among England youngsters

As Jonjo Shelvey completed his switch from Liverpool to Swansea last week, the move was greeted across different social media networks with emotions ranging from widespread sarcasm to downright cynicism.

On Twitter, users wondered how would the former Liverpool midfielder, who’s earned a reputation for his rather tough challenges since making his Anfield debut, fit Swansea’s passing game, while another sarcastically lamented that, after Ian Rush, Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish, the red half of Merseyside had lost another great.

Looking past the tongue-in-cheek comments, though, it becomes apparent how Shelvey’s decision offers a damning view of how hard it is for England youngsters to secure a spot in their clubs.

During his three seasons at Liverpool, Shelvey made only nine league starts, a paltry return considering he was – and, by some, still is – considered one of the country’s brightest talents.

Furthermore, throughout his Anfield career, the likes of Christian Poulsen, Daniel Pacheco, Raul Meireles and Charlie Adam were chosen ahead of Shelvey – expert professionals who have built distinguished careers, but hardly the sort of world stars granted to keep a promising youngster on the fringes of the first team.

Describing the 21-year-old as star in the making would be premature and probably wrong, but Shelvey’s case serves to highlight the extent to which young English players must go if they’re to secure regular first team football.

Swansea have flourished since joining the Premier League, impressing neutrals and fans alike with their passing game and even securing a place in Europe, on the back of their Carling Cup success but, with all the respect the Welsh club deserves, they remain a far cry from the tradition and glamour of Liverpool.

Yet Shelvey decided that it was time for him to move, to avoid being stuck in the all too familiar limbo where other English players have found themselves in recent years – good enough to make the U21 squad but not good enough to break into their club’s starting XI.

Only 35 of the players available to England aged 21 or less, were rewarded with a Premier League appearance last season, the lowest total since 2005.

Of the players that made the England squad at the recent European Under 21 Championship, only Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel could be considered as Premier League regulars, having appeared in 30 and 34 league games respectively last season.

The rest of the players were either plying their trade for Championship clubs, made only a handful of top-flight appearances or were loaned out to the second tier of English football, to gain what club describe as “first team experience”.

One could argue that better players than Shelvey and of his Under 21 team-mates have managed to establish themselves as club regulars and England international but, while that might be true, only a small number of players have managed the feat.

The likes of Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones, Steven Caulker and Chris Smalling are the exceptions rather than rule, which sees English players constantly overlooked in favour of foreign imports.

England’s pool of young players might not offer the array of talent at disposal of other European nations but the risk of England seeing its options decreasing even further is extremely concrete, unless teams begin to cooperate with the national team.

That, though, seems highly unlikely and for every Wilfried Zaha joining Manchester United, there’ll be plenty of Jonjo Shelveys, seeking their chances in mid-table clubs.

Do you think Jonjo Shelvey make the right decision by swapping Liverpool for Swansea? Will more players follow his example and leave big clubs to earn regular football? We want your views so have your say below or get involved on our Facebook page or Twitter feed.

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