Eartha Pond, the former Arsenal and Tottenham player, says it was only a matter of time before England picked an all-white squad – “It tells us there’s a problem because there’s so few to choose from anyway,” she said – but the real question is why?
The problem is partly a practical one. In recent years, elite regional talent centres and academies have moved further away from the inner cities, where there is a higher concentration of ethnically diverse communities. Young girls from ethnic minority backgrounds often have neither the financial resources or transport options to travel to training ground based miles away from home.
But the problem may have a cultural element as well.
“I spoke to one of the coaches involved with the current England youth set-up, who said that it’s the same now as it was 15 or 20 years ago. The main focus is fitness, while the ability to express yourself on the pitch is not celebrated enough. If we’re relating that back to inner city kids, they don’t tend to grow up where there’s open field and it’s about fitness and running. They’re usually in football cages and small spaces expressing themselves and are really talented on the ball.”