The bleating of the England camp and non-savvy journalists is a danger to club football

By Tony Attwood

“More talent, less minutes: English players suffering in Premier League”.

That is the headline with no less than 11 Arsenal players are currently gallivanting around Europe and beyond ready to receive wounds which will very much be of their own choosing – after all they don’t have to go.  These players are

Sokratis Papastahopoulos, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Mohamed Elneny, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey, Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck

All are on so-called “international duty” (Mavropanos with the under 21s, the rest with the first team) with the major hoping to play in a competition that it is said most of them don’t even understand.

Meanwhile, thinking that being knocked out in a semi-final is actually a trophy (funny how with Arsenal 4th is not a trophy but with England it is) the England manager has strayed dangerously close to the language of the neo-fascits in speaking of the “ethical challenge” of finding ways of forcing English league clubs to play more players qualified for England.

Still at least he managed to avoid saying “ethnical challenge”, which I suppose is something.  In case you are not clear an ethical challenge is where you cannot do what you consider to be the right thing because of regulations.  Ah, poor Mr S.

And to be clear he wasn’t speaking about swimming when he said, “Our pool is getting smaller and smaller.”

After which we got to the statistics which really is when it starts getting frightening, because we all know where statistics in terms of nationality leads us.

“English players” we are told by the Guardian whose moral compass seems to be infected by iron filings when discussing nationalism in sport, “have played 30.4% of the 79,200 minutes played in the Premier League so far this season, a drop from 33% last year.”   But as they admit that drop is because of the late return of Englishmen from Russia – although there again a lot of the guys were rushed back in without a proper holiday.

And then they focus their aim saying, “Among the top-six clubs the number of English starters drops to nearer 20%; an alarming figure for an England manager wanting to select from a pool exposed to the pressure of challenging for the title and the experience of European competition.”

Now you know where this is going…

“Chelsea and Arsenal are lowest on the list with a combined 172 minutes for Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley plus a mere 56 minutes in total for Danny Welbeck and Ainsley Maitland-Niles respectively.”

Yes we got there finally.  It’s Arsenal’s fault.  Danny Welbeck was kept in training in order to play 11 minutes.  So, Arsenal had to put up without Danny Welbeck who they were paying, for the first two games of the season, in order that he could play 11 minutes for England, AND IT IS ALL ARSENAL’S FAULT.

Aidy Boothroyd, England’s Under–21 manager, then pitched in saying, “There has never been a better time to be an England player, whatever age,” says Boothroyd.

Well, yes, England have won the the under 17 and under 20 world cup and the under 19 Euros, so shouldn’t we then ask why the England team is such an almighty failure at the big boys game?   After all every single England played in the WC played his football in England.  No other country had that luxury.

Oh but I forgot.  At international level fourth is a trophy.

And Boothroyd won’t let it rest saying,  “In the past you had British managers giving British players a lot of chances to prove they could do it. Now the game is global. I look at my old club Watford, and it is a completely different club to the one that I was at. Foreign owners and foreign managers might perhaps look abroad before looking at what is under their nose although, ironically, the best ones tend to pick our players, so there must be something in that.”

But this makes no sense – for in every other country the players are playing all over the world.  And that is what helps prepare them for the WC.  They get to learn about world football and experience working under coaches of all sorts of nationalities and persuasions.

But what is the solution? “We have tried the quota one, haven’t we?” Boothroyd replies. “I really don’t have the answer.”

Well Mr B you could try Untold’s analyses published in 2010 .  After all a couple of newspapers including the Daily Telegraph have pinched it and reworked it.  It shows the answer.    There is a direction correlation between how well a country does an international level and the number of qualified coaches per 1000 players.

And there is the subplot as the Guardian reports…

“The Premier League has asked the government to clarify whether it will be exempt from restrictions on European workers after Brexit. With only six months to go, it is still awaiting an answer. The Premier League’s post-Brexit proposals will require FA support. That could be the FA’s opportunity to insist on an increase to the current quota of eight homegrown players in a 25-man squad.”

But maybe there is hope for England for as the Guardian continues, “The difficulties have prompted English players to join Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig and Wolfsburg in recent months. According to one Premier League academy director, the trend is also happening at junior level and will only accelerate post-Brexit.”

But the ultimate threat is not England leaving the EU, it is as always Uefa, for as Uefa president Aleksander Cerefin, said, “The relationship between club and national-team football needed rebalancing,” and to do that they have introduced these new euro internationals which will be played every odd year.

Fifpro, the world players’ union are against it, I’m against it and a number of Untold readers are against it.  But I suspect we are going to be led down an emotional nationalistic path which has nothing to do with the research.  You get better players by having more qualified coaches.  You get more qualified coaches by having a football association that is set up to train them to the highest standard for a very moderate cost.

You get a better football association by throwing out the old duffers and bringing in people who don’t make up excuses, and of course by having newspapers that don’t unquestioningly print the excuses of the football association as if they were fact.

In remembrance of this site’s good friend Ian Snelling – Gf60.

8 Replies to “The bleating of the England camp and non-savvy journalists is a danger to club football”

  1. To have carried out and then published this analysis after just four games is, as you point out Tony, completely barmy.
    It also ignores the fact that, if about a third of Premiership first team squad players are eligible for England (true last time I looked) then that’s about 175 players – or an average of 7 per place in an international squad of 25. Or 16 per position on the field. Did we have that much choice in 1966 when we won the World Cup? No we didn’t – nowhere near it.
    We are fine for quantity – it’s the quality that’s lacking and coaching is to blame.
    If you want to increase quantity ( i.e.more not good enough players) then encourage clubs to take a longer term view of player development and not a short term/ buy success off the shelf view taken by the likes of Man City.
    Arsenal seem to be adopting the best strategy which is to take on more British players, coach them better and then give them more opportunity to shine at first team level.

  2. I still think the major problem is the failure to foster and fund youth sports. Only the privileged few in Britain, the ones whose parents can afford to support them, can pursue sports to competitive level. The run down of youth clubs and youth activities by councils starved of government cash, the construction of schools on smaller sites without proper playgrounds, the sell off of school playing fields – this all has an effect.

  3. Is not the main problem with English players is that their fees are grossly inflated?

    Teams would rather buy an established foreign player for a lower fee, and, most probably, a lower salary as well.

  4. I wonder why it is that so many people blame the government for everything.

    Surely, it has nothing to do with schools, youth clubs and playing fields.

    We see from our own club, they start training boys as young as 6 and nurture them over a number of years before they are either good enough, and are taken on by the club, or are not, in which, if they want to embark on a professional career then they will have to move on, as so many have done from us this summer.

    If English youngsters are good enough to win world cups then why can they not progress to the first teams and onwards?

    Perhaps it is the high salaries and ridiculous expectations that are holding them down.

    If a 17-year-old is earning £500k per annum, where is the incentive to strive to improve?

    I think this is where the problem lies, not the sale of playing fields.

    Greed and complacency is at fault, not lack of opportunity.

  5. jjgsol – “Is not the main problem with English players is that their fees are grossly inflated?” That is absolutely one of the main problems, and what I find so amazing is that no-one seems to realise that by increasing the minimum number of homegrown players a club needs, all that does is increase those fees even higher, meaning only the top clubs can afford these players, meaning they will have tougher competition to get into the starting 11, meaning the homegrown rule is actually hugely detrimental to the number of minutes English players get.

    Now, if our coaching wasn’t so abysmal this wouldn’t be such a big issue, as these players would be able to get into the starting 11’s of the top clubs, but clearly that isn’t the case.

    I just find it so hard to believe that people getting paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to solve these exact kinds of issues have yet to realise this! A truly embarrassing level of incompetence for people in such high up positions.

  6. I think it is interesting that more English youngsters, especially those from top tier academies, are seeing that the way ahead is to move abroad for playing time. The number of minutes Englishmen play in the Premier League may be moot if many 20 or 21 year olds play full time in other leagues and eventually end up representing England internationally.

  7. A Arsenal youth story just popped up on ESPN (World Wide Leader in being ESPN). Kaylen Hinds was at Wolfsburg. They just terminated his contract because he had been AWOL.

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