Former Liverpool midfielder John Barnes: England in Dark Ages

John Barnes has hit out at the English game. Photo: PA

John Barnes believes English football is stuck in the Dark Ages and would have struggled at the Under-21 European Championships even with the players they were denied.

The Young Lions headed to Israel among the favourites after a run of nine successive wins, but became the first team to exit the competition following defeats to Italy and Norway.

A key issue for Stuart Pearce's side has been the string of high-profile players made unavailable, with eligible players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck instead linking up with the senior side.

However, former England international Barnes does not believe their absence is behind the Young Lions' failure, insisting the issues run deeper than that.

"We are not even producing enough players for the senior side, never mind the Under-21s," he told talkSPORT.

"The way we're talking you would think we have Under-21 superstars who are being plucked away from the Under-21s and if they played they would win the Under-21 championship.

"If we played our best players from the Under-21s, I still don't think we would be good enough to win the Under-21 championship. The players aren't there. They are not good enough.

"We still like this old British mentality of up-and-at them, get stuck in, because we are not comfortable keeping the ball if it is seemingly going nowhere.

"Spain don't keep the ball just for the sake of it, but in England we have this attitude that, if you are keeping the ball for 20 passes without getting over the halfway line, they are doing it for no reason. We have to change our philosophy and our mentality."

Aware of the need for progress, the Football Association opened St George's Park training complex last year - a structure seen as key to the future of English football.

"St George's Park and the infrastructure and the money they have spent has nothing to do with addressing the problem," Barnes said. "It has to do with the philosophy.

"You don't need a St George's Park to change the philosophy, you can do that in an open park.

"It is the culture we have to change, nothing to do with spending £50million on a structure."

Barnes is not the first high-profile figure to hit out at the English game over the course of the Under-21 Championships.

Former England managers Glenn Hoddle, Graham Taylor and Steve McClaren have all expressed their concerns, while former defender Sol Campbell feels certain young stars have approached tournaments with an unhealthy sense of entitlement before they have achieved anything in the game.

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, who won 81 caps, has also raised concerns about the state of the English game.

"It starts way down the chain," he posted on Twitter.

"For me u should b able to pluck an u18s player out n put him into the 1st team n not have to school him tactically,just school on opposition.

"Would not happen now at all for us,in contrast if Spain or Germany threw a u18 in he would know his role as these countries have an identity."