Following England’s rather laughable exit from the U-21 European Championships in Israel, inquests are being held left, right and centre as to why England are so god-awful when it comes to the national team.
Former England manager, Graham Taylor, told BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek:
“I think we have all seen this coming. We have got this tremendous amount of money that has now come into football. It means the top four or five clubs are not looking for the best players in England, but the best players in the world because they can afford to buy them. At Manchester City, if Manuel Pellegrini comes in, I’ll be amazed if he signs an English player.”
“The top four of five clubs are not looking for the best players in England, but the best players in the world because they can afford to buy them.” That’s a very loose opinion, one which I consider to be incorrect. Look at the top five clubs in England this season: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. All of them have a prominent English spine to the team. At Manchester United, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney all played large roles in United’s Premier League title win last season.
Manchester City meanwhile, can rely on Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry and James Milner. Last summer, Roberto Mancini invested in Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair, albeit to varying degrees of success. At Chelsea, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and John Terry are the binding force of their talented team and Arsenal boast a rich vein of English players coming through. Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all signed new contracts with Arsenal as Arsene Wenger looks to build on a British core.
Arsenal’s North London neighbours, Tottenham Hotspur, have a prominent English spine to their team as well. Steven Caulker, Kyle Walker, Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon and Jermaine Defoe are all regulars in the first team, whilst Tom Carroll has received some playing time under Andre Villas Boas as he undergoes his development.
The majority of teams in the Premier League are looking to develop a core of English players and that is a positive sign.
It would be naïve of me however, to suggest all of the players I mentioned at England’s top five clubs, are going to be, or currently are, of world class quality. Joe Hart is the closest player that Manchester City have to being world class and although Chelsea’s trio were once of that level, they’re currently dipping in their level of quality owing to their respective ages. Arsenal’s young English talents are still developing and none of Tottenham’s players are of that world class ilk.
The idea to develop an English core is evident amongst our top teams. Arsene Wenger commented last season on the development of English players, saying that previously there had been a very small pool of talent to choose from. Now, that it is different and all six of Arsenal’s top English players are capable of challenging, if not starting, for the national team. Wenger also said that it is much easier to persuade an English player to spurn the advances of a foreign club. However, the paucity of top, emerging English talent is still an issue and one that is being addressed.
The English FA have looked at various schemes to help young players and the building of St. George’s Park will hopefully aide player development. Those actions should in turn develop higher quality players capable of becoming world class cornerstones of England’s best clubs.
At the most basic level, the FA should be providing the appropriate coaching and development for young players. Successful development and a correct vision will see young players turn into very good players capable of playing for the best teams. If a player is good enough, he will get picked, regardless of his passport. It isn’t up to a club to pick players based on nationality, it’s up to them to pick based on quality and if English quality isn’t coming through, then why pick an English kid over a more talented Italian kid?
Any changes being made at youth level however, will take a long to be recognised at international level for England. We require patience.