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April 2021

41% of players have joined their club in the last year

By Tony Attwood

A recent report gives concern to the fact that a record number of transfers took place in 2013 with players recruited in Europe in the year 2013 making up just over 41% of all squads.  That makes it about 10 signings per club.

Now that is silly, because a turnover of players of such speed rarely brings in success.   Indeed the most stable club by this measure is seemingly Barcelona, with squad players having been at the club for five and a half years on average.

(But staying at a club a long time doesn’t by itself bring success.   Manchester United is the only other club with an average of more than five years.   Sometimes it just means your players are getting old together and the replacement policy is failing).

I am sure it never used to be like this.

Thinking back, the first ever football match (other than a school match) that I went to go and see, was in the only ground on White Hart Lane.   That was the ground of Wood Green Town FC (the ground of the Tiny Totts, as you will undoubtedly know being not on White Hart Lane but at 748 High Road Tottenham London N17.)

That first match was (maybe) against Dulwich Hamlet, and the chances are that most of the players had been with the club for a season or two, and almost all of the 22 players was British by birth

I still go and watch non-league and lower league football on occasion, when Arsenal are not playing, and, unless I study the pen pictures of the teams in the programme, I naturally have no idea which players are British by birth, British by nationalisation, EU, or non-EU.

And the fact is, even though I always buy a programme at such games, I don’t actually read through to check who holds what passport.  Quite honestly I don’t find it important.   Who the player played for previously – yes that can be interesting, especially if it is a youngster who I’ve managed to tip for great things but who has never made it, but nationality, no.

But the fact is that nationality seems to excite the press far more than the speed of movement.  Indeed the FA and its chairperson, Greg Dyke, are trying to increase the number of homegrown (which is not the same as English or British) players in the Premier League.  It is a typical error by the FA.  Nationality is irrelevant.  Player movement however is becoming crazy.

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But since the FA can’t rely on my powers of observation, or my willingness to study places of birth recorded in programmes, there has been a survey by the Centre International d’Etude du Sport on which they can rely to get their figures.   It shows that the Premier League has the second highest proportion of “imported” players (by which I think they mean, non-nationals at the time of arrival) of the 31 countries they chose to look at.

Top of the “import league” is Cyprus, at 60.4%.   In England, Italy, Turkey, Portugal and Belgium the number of non-natives (if that is the correct phrase – probably not) is over 50%.  In club terms Internazionale have the most “overseas” players, with  89% of their squad so designated.

The problem I have at this point is one of definition.  I suspect Ramsey is considered a “native” but anyone from the province of Northern Ireland is not.  A bit silly that given that Wales likes to style itself a “country” these days, and not a “principality” as it was when I was at school.  Scotland on the other hand certainly is a country, while N Ireland most certainly is not.

In fact Uefa is working on the basis of whether players play in the same country where they were trained with England and Wales considered one country.  That number is 21%, and I still say, “does it matter?”   If I were a citizen of Andorra and chose to do my writing in Scotland (for reasons that will not become clear at this point) would it matter?  I can’t think it would.

But we are supposed to get really worked up about the fact that so many players are playing outside the country shown on their passport, or country of birth, or province of birth (in the case of N Ireland) or whatever.  I repeat, does it matter?  And I still answer no.

Does it matter how many “homegrown” players play in the Premier League?  No it doesn’t unless you are interested in that old and I would say harmful notion of nationality – a notion that has been the biggest cause of wars in Europe (with the possibly exception of religion) since the people stopped counting time backwards (BC) and became more logical.

There are constantly comments in the press about all these foreigners crowding out the decent jolly good English fellow who wants to play.  Quite honestly it doesn’t worry me a jot.  Much better, however, to put together a stable squad.

When Arsenal played Liverpool in the cup and Carragher threw a coin at the crowd


5 comments to 41% of players have joined their club in the last year

  • insideright

    The first Arsenal team I ever watched at Highbury (in the early sixties) had a small minority of Englishmen in it – and one of those, Joe Baker, spoke with a broad Scottish accent and had been bought from an Italian club.
    The vast majority of the team (indeed, squad) were either Irish or Scottish and, relatively speaking, they weren’t that good and were drawing crowds about half the size of the Arsenal team playing nowadays. Most of those crowds were paying next to nothing to stand on the terraces and could just turn up on the day – except, of course, mostly they didn’t.
    Guess how I prefer things to be?

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Even if it wasn’t the original intention, the EPL brand is now international both in followership and economically. FA and EPL will seek to reverse this at great peril to the followership and its financial drawing power. It is bad enough the damage that inconsistent officiating of EPL’s matches is doing to the brand, locally and internationally.

    The problem is that those in England who want a more English EPL have not reconciled their desire with European and even UK employment rules and traditions nor with the ambitions of the EPL clubs’ owners. They also don’t believe it when they are told that the decline of England in European and world football competitions have nothing to do with the English quota of players in England -based teams. It is one of those cases that “common sense” expectations don’t align with the result of research into a subject matter. Indeed, the improvement of England ‘s team in international competitions this century, relative to the 80s and 90s can be attributed to the players having superior local competition in their respective England-based clubs as a result of the influx of international players, coaches and sports science.
    The challenges, really is for FA to employ Tony as a consultant earning mega pounds to tell them what he has been freely sharing with us in Untold for awhile.

  • Gooner Murphy

    Great article Tony and I’m surprised it hasn’t generated more debate However as an Irish national born in The North of Ireland (You are correct, it is a region of the UK & part of the country of Ireland) the English media do become paranoid about their national team but fail to investigate the reasons for the lack of success over the last 40years of competitions perhaps even a cursory look into deficiency of the coaching / systems in schools and youth clubs would result enhancement of skill levels that feeds the junior teams that develop the young football apprentices

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Inge asks for a Raise!

    The German maid asked for a pay increase.

    The wife became very angry about this and decided to talk to her about the this raise.

    She asked, “Now Inge, why do you think you should get a pay increase?”

    ”Inge: “Well, Madam, there are tree reasons why I wunt the increaze. The 1st is that I do iron better than you.”

    Wife: “Who said you iron better than me?”

    Inge: “Your husband he say so.”

    Wife: “Oh yeah?”

    Inge: “The second reason eez that I am a better cook than you.”

    Wife: “that’s a lie, who said you were a better cook than me?”

    Inge: “Your hozban he did.”

    Wife increasingly agitated: “Oh he did, did he?”

    Inge: “The third reason is that I am better at sex than you in the bed.”

    Wife, really boiling now and through gritted teeth asks, “And did my husband say that as well?”

    Inge: “No Madam… the gardener did.”

    Wife: “So, how much do you want?”

  • finsbury
    I have to admit, it’s an odd looking bird atop that basketball.

    “We have recently been informed of this scam from England….
    “We have sent a letter to the persons who have used the false document, ordering them to stop immediately.”

    Remember. “It could never happen here!” Except it does. Oh well.