Sol Campbell says England are failing to progress at international level because players are being capped before achieving success in club football.
Of the 14 players handed debuts by Roy Hodgson since he became manager in May, 11 are aged 23 or under.
"Some of the young players have got their England careers far too early," said ex-England defender Campbell.
"It's far too easy for players who have not done much in the game to play for their country."
He added: "It all connects and that's why results aren't going so well."
Campbell completed three full seasons at Tottenham before earning the first of 73 England caps in 1996.
He was part of the squad that reached the 1996 European Championship semi-finals and also played at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups, as well as the Euros in 2000 and 2004.
"When I started, I had to play top football for 18 months before I could get a look-in," the 38-year-old told BBC Sport.
"Yes, I was in with the England side earlier than that but just training with the team and then I'd go back with the Under-21s.
"Now it seems like if you've played a few games, scored a few goals, cleared a few balls off the line and threaded a couple of really good balls in, all of a sudden you're in the England side."
In the year Campbell made his England debut, seven other players - Robbie Fowler, Jason Wilcox, Ian Walker, Phil Neville, Ugo Ehiogu, David Beckham and Andy Hinchcliffe - also won their first caps.
This year saw debuts handed to 15 players, most of whom had little - and some no - Premier League experience.
"I still feel playing for your country is the number one," said Campbell, who won two Premier League titles and two FA Cups with Arsenal, and also scored in the 2006 Champions League final.
"When players get to England they need to be playing at the top of their game, but some have been getting in the England squad when they're not even in their club side, and that is not right.
"You're believing you're at the top because you play for England, but you're not. Then obviously the results [follow] from there."
Campbell retired from playing in May after a professional career spanning almost 20 years, and is now setting out on the path to becoming a manager.
He is taking his coaching badges with the Welsh Football Association and hopes he can help increase the number of black bosses in the game.
"I know what I want to do, I know what type of manager I want to be. I've got experience," Campbell explained.
"More black players need to qualify so that in four or five years' time hopefully the landscape has changed and it becomes the norm."
Campbell questioned why there are so few black managers when so many black men have enjoyed successful playing careers.
"There are a lot of black managers who have got the qualifications, a lot who had fantastic careers and are not working," he said.
"Look at Paul Ince. He's had a wonderful playing career and it didn't work out [at Blackburn], but that doesn't mean it's not going to work out at another club.
"Then you've got some white managers who haven't had a fantastic career, it's not worked out at certain clubs, or even relegated clubs, and got other jobs. Then you start saying 'what's going on here?'"
At the end of a year blighted by racial abuse controversies, FA chairman David Bernstein announced on Thursday that a of racist abuse will be introduced.
"It has been disappointing, but there have been glimmers of hope," said Campbell. "People are finally taking racism seriously.
"When it happens the players are now reporting it, which is great. The clubs are looking straight at the CCTV and dealing with the culprits.
"The authorities and clubs have come together to say 'we don't want this, we don't accept this'. It is slowly changing the mentality of some of the fans and also the mentality of some of the players."
Despite the encouraging signs, Campbell warned that the fight against racism must go on, adding: "It's always going to be there.
"There is a tendency for 'old news, forget about it'. But the PFA, charities, clubs and authorities must be mindful it always rears its ugly head, and we've got to make sure that we keep tabs on it."