Fear factor hinders Pearce

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ROBERTO Martinez has put England’s dismal Under-21 European Championship campaign down to a fear of failure among the players.

Stuart Pearce’s Three Lions – including former Latics loanee Tom Cleverley [below] – went into the tournament ranked number one in the UEFA rankings.

But they failed to make it out of the group stage, after draws against Spain and Ukraine were followed by a 2-1 defeat to the Czech Republic.

Martinez, who has been working as a pundit for Sky TV during the tournament, reckons the problem was not so much lack of talent in the England ranks – too much pressure being heaped on the players.

“There are many lessons to be learned from the Under-21s championships,” Martinez told the Evening Post.

“As far as England are concerned, you look at the players who were involved and they are a lot better than the results have shown.

“Either they weren’t allowed to express themselves, or they weren’t allowed to enjoy the experience as much as they should because of the pressure.

“Of the teams who have done well, like the Czech Republic and Switzerland, it’s clear their players are not at the same level as the England players.

“For them, reaching the finals was an achievement in itself, and that allowed them to play with a freedom and an enjoyment.

“We need to help the authorities to find a solution to this problem, to be able to go to big tournaments without the pressure of having to win it.

“Individually we are creating the players, and now it’s about creating good teams at the same time.”

However, Martinez’s views are not shared by Dave Whelan, who has a less sympathetic take on things.

The Wigan chairman believes big changes are needed all the way through from top to bottom if England are to compete at either Under-21 level or in senior tournaments.

“It was disappointing to see the youngsters go out last weekend, because it really looked as though they could do something,” Whelan opined.

“People will say there are too many foreign players playing over here, and there’s got to be some truth in that.

“There needs to be changes at grass-roots level – that would help, there’s no question.

“We desperately need more youngsters to be playing in the Premier League, but it’s not easy.

“It seems to be the stronger the Premier League, the weaker the England team is – and that simply has to change.”