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If England should fail...

Richard Burgess | 07:01 UK time, Tuesday, 4 September 2007

If England don't qualify for Euro 2008, who will you blame?

The simple answer is that most people will probably point the finger at manager Steve McClaren. He will be the obvious - and perhaps easy - scapegoat for the side's failure.

But surely the truth is that England's problems go much deeper than one man.

Our report on the future of English football - as featured on Inside Sport - highlights the challenges facing McClaren and the FA as they look to build a national senior side which not only qualifies for major tournaments but occasionally wins them too.

Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's Director of Football Development, has told us the England team is under threat as the number of foreign players in the Premier League continues to rise. "It's a major concern," he warns.

Hang on a minute, I hear you say, isn't it Brooking's job to cultivate the next generation of England stars? Perhaps he's the man to blame if England don't qualify.

Well, no, not quite. Watching his interview, Sir Trevor seems almost powerless. He says he's virtually given up on the professional game (namely the youth academies at Premier League and Football League clubs) - and now just concentrates on grassroots football. It seems an odd state of affairs.

In his recent review into football's youth development system, Richard Lewis argued that the FA, Premier League and Football League need to come together and form a 'Youth Management Group' under an independent chairman. You can read the review here.

Whether that would solve the seemingly inevitable tension between the professional leagues and the FA, it's hard to say.

Clubs can justifiably argue that they invest millions in their academies and it's in their interests to produce exciting, young English talent. But are they really best placed to make the long-term, strategic decisions for the future of English football?

There seems to be a consensus that the Lewis review has got it just about right. It will be interesting to see whether football's powerbrokers back up his words with some action.

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