Theo Walcott says England’s young talent should consider dropping down the leagues in search of regular first-team football in a bid to aid their development.
England became the first nation to qualify for the 2016 European Championships on Saturday evening, but question marks remain over the Three Lions’ long-term prospects with less than 30% of the Premier League starters last week English.
The heavy spending by Premier League clubs during the summer transfer window has also been criticised by Germany coach Joachim Low, who feels the constant stream of imports into the Premier League will hinder the development of the national side.
Now Arsenal forward Walcott has joined the debate and he says English players must now be prepared to drop down the leagues to ensure they get the regular playing time that will underpin both their own development and the national team’s success.
“Maybe some English players are not getting opportunities, but it is important to go out and get experience in the lower leagues,” Walcott said.
“I was doing that when I was younger. It has worked well for me now. It is important to play football. We all play in the best league and people want to play.”
Walcott only made 21 appearances for Southampton in the Championship before moving to Arsenal as a 16-year-old, but nonetheless feels the experience helped his game.
The likes of Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Calum Chambers are regulars in the England squad, but often struggle for game time at Arsenal and Walcott added: “Players are staying fit, squads are getting better and competition for places is tough.
“You have to show what you can do when you get the opportunity. We have some great young talent. It is important to improve on the World Cup disappointment.”