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Good news for England future

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Matt Slater | 18:06 UK time, Monday, 5 July 2010

An embarrassing climbdown? A victory for common sense? Or a calendar mix-up now resolved?

Whatever. The news that England will be sending a strong squad to the Under-19 European Championship in France is undeniably a good thing. It is also an indication that maybe, just maybe, we might have learned something from events in South Africa.

Confirmation of this encouraging development will come later this week when England U19 coach Noel Blake announces a squad that should be close to full strength.

The former Exeter City manager is losing his three best players (Blackburn's Phil Jones, Everton's Jack Rodwell and Jack Wilshere of Arsenal) to Stuart Pearce's U21s but he will not be too despondent, given the threat of widespread unavailability from his Premier League contingent.

That threat vanished, however, as the clubs watched the fallout from England's World Cup misadventures and decided perhaps now was not the best time to be on the wrong side of a club v country row. So what was brewing up to be a PR storm for the perfidious plutocrats of the Premier League has been transformed into a textbook example of good international relations.

Noel BlakeEngland U19 coach Noel Blake will travel to Normandy with high hopes of success

Some credit here should go to Harry Redknapp. With up to six of his young charges in line for a call-up, Spurs had by far the most to lose in terms of interruption to their pre-season plans, hence their reported reluctance to release players.

Redknapp was in South Africa on BBC duty, so he probably did not need a call last week from Sir Trevor Brooking, the Football Association's director of football development, to persuade him of the importance of age-group competition but he got one anyway and it certainly didn't hurt.

Redknapp got straight on to Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and suddenly the likes of John Bostock and Dean Parrett were free for the rest of July and waiting for Blake's nod.

With the Spurs six back in play (four are likely to make the squad), it seems other clubs quickly made their good young 'uns available too - Aston Villa's Nathan Delfouneso, Manchester United's Reece (brother of Wes) Brown and Chelsea midfielder Jacob Mellis should all be on duty when England line up to meet Austria in their opener in Flers on 18 July.

This is a far cry from last summer when Spurs blocked Danny Rose's participation and Crystal Palace would not let Victor Moses go. This followed the high-profile withdrawal of David Bentley from the U21s a year before, and the unfortunate harrumphing that surrounded Theo Walcott's decision to make himself available for U21 and senior action.

Good. Because England needs to start taking age-group football much more seriously.

Half of the German team we are currently raving about at the World Cup cut their tournament teeth whilst winning the U17, U19 and U21 titles in Europe, and Spain's transformation from dysfunctional under-achievers to potential world-beaters can be traced back to a glittering recent record in these competitions.

England's record, on the other hand, has been more in keeping with our 44-year hurt at senior level, although there are signs of progress of late.

Last year's U19 vintage lost in the European final to Ukraine, whilst the U21s ran into that fine German group in their final and also lost (we now know that a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil is nothing to be ashamed of). It was the second year in succession the U21s had finished runners-up in that competition.

England celebrate victoryEngland beat Spain to win the European U17 title in May

These near-misses were finally converted to victory this May when John Peacock's U17 team beat Spain 2-1 to end a 17-year wait for English success at any level. It was a triumph that probably didn't get the credit it deserved - the country can only deal with one golden generation at a time - as Peacock's players won all 11 of their games going back to qualification, scoring 32 and conceding only six.

Unfortunately, we are probably going to hear more about the likes of Ipswich striker Conor Wickham and Chelsea defender Nathanial Chalobah than their clubs and the FA would like over the next year or two, but expectation is part and parcel of being an England player. What's different about this lot is their all-round ability.

"We've had some good groups before," Brooking told me. "But this is the first team we have had when all 10 outfield players could play proper possession football.

"Too often in the past the good teams have been able to identify the weak links in our team, the players who will play the long ball or just give it away under pressure. But this group has quality and depth."

Listening to the former West Ham maestro talk like this about young players is one of the most frustrating aspects of the current debate about England's malaise. We do have decent players and we have got administrators who recognise what is needed to help them flourish: getting them together is the problem.

Brooking, who has been the FA's development chief for seven years, published his most recent plan, the Future Game document, just before the World Cup. His challenge will be to make sure this does more than gather dust in academies and centres of excellence up and down the land.

In it he outlines his belief that English football must close the coaching gap with its main rivals, invest far more in youth development and develop a coherent style of play throughout the academy system. He also raises the pertinent question of where the U17 stars will get their first-team experience.

These issues, and many more, have to be part of the post-World Cup debate.

In the meantime, I intend to enjoy England's attempt to claim a first European U19 title since 1993. It would be a small step towards our stated goal of World Cup glory but a step forward nonetheless. And Germany didn't qualify.

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  • Comment number 1.

    A good read and nice to know there is some hope below the diamond-encrusted senior level for England.
    Call me a cynic though - how long before the natural exuberence of these kids is trained out of them into the faceless high tempo English league style of play. Look at the difference between Rooney at Euro 2004 and this summer!
    Fingers crossed that another warning doesn't instigate another FA false dawn.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ooooh second....ha!

  • Comment number 3.

    Good stuff. Let's hope everyone involved plays their role and puts in their best and hopefully by WC 2018 or even Euro 2016, we can see a massive improvement. Good Blog

  • Comment number 4.

    There is some good talent coming through, but we need to limit the number of foreign players in the premiership significantly. Talented young English players are finding their path blocked by too many clubs (and I don't single any one club out) importing cheap young foreign players. Moreover, because in the short term, clubs think that it is cheaper to import rather than invest in a high quality youth academy, we are seeing this situation where many people are concerned about the number of young players breaking through. A limit on the number of foreigners in a matchday squad should be implemented, although you would find it difficult to make legislation that makes it mandatory to include a minimum of English players, because I don't think English is recognised in a legally meaningful sense, unlike British. But nonetheless, limiting the number of foreigners will have a positive effect on the number of English players getting the chance at a young age to sample competitive first team football.
    Whatever you say about Blatter, his concerns about the influx of foreigners into domestic leagues was valid, and anything to counter that should be encouraged. The Premiership's Free Market approach may be good for profits, but it isn't healthy for the long term development for the game.

  • Comment number 5.

    i think the first team experience bit is key - the odd month on loan at Crystal Palace or Wigan is not enough, premiership managers need to take the plunge and play youngsters with all the risks that entails.

    and some coaches would be nice, ta

  • Comment number 6.

    If you think clubs like Man City would take a gable like that think again, its a disgrace these young lads arn't getting a chance.

    Yaya Toure 200K a week? do me a favour.

  • Comment number 7.

    "Talented young English players are finding their path blocked by too many clubs (and I don't single any one club out) importing cheap young foreign players."

    Cheap young foreigners?! I think it's the expensive, more experienced foreigners that's the main block between young English players and the first team! Teams in the premiership are more likely to go out and buy a more experienced foreign player than give a youngster a chance.

    Not wanting to single out any particular team, buy hey....look at Man City. They were bringing through some youngsters a while ago, but now the likes of Ireland finds Yaya Toure, De Jong, Viera etc. in his way.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think the recent fallout of young English players and other young British players is most clearly seen, not in the Premiership teams, but in the lower leagues and more specifically non-league. You might hear supporters of lower-league clubs talking about "gems" they've found in non-league and these kids must have come from somewhere.

    Everybody knows how many kids don't get professional contracts at the top clubs and these guys often get picked up by small clubs and get the opportunity to fully develop and play first team football.

    A great example of this is Charlie Austin's success at Swindon. He left Reading in 2004, at the age of 15, and after playing for several local or non-league moved from Poole Town to Swindon, after scoring an astonishing 48 goals in 42 appearances. He has continued in this rich vein goals scoring form at Swindon netting 19 times in 33 appearances.

    Clearly something is wrong with the youth system if such a talented individual misses out and gets released, the reasons for this (According to Wikipedia, a far from reliable source) was "for being too small." which is ludicrous, Messi has a growth deficiency and was still kept on at Barca and Jermain Defoe is far from being the tallest man in the world.
    This may be a valid (if not slightly strange reason) to release a player once they've reached maturity at say 18 or 19 but 15? I don't know about you but I've grown a fair amount since I was 15.

    Going back to Charlie Austin he's now 6ft 2in (Again according to Wikipedia) not so small any more eh?

    I think that having these foreign players brought in does have a detrimental on English players, but only up to a certain point.the quality of football in Leagues 1 and 2 has grown drastically as they can now pick up young lads with bags of potential for nothing after being released from the bigger clubs to make way for players being brought in.
    The impression I've got from reading interviews from players who have experienced this effect is that they are much more driven and are just desperate to play first team football, especially after dropping into non-league. As a Bournemouth fan I can point out Anton Robinson as a prime example of this, he played every game last season in a highly competitive midfield for a team that won promotion, it was his first ever taste of league football.

    Larger clubs need to be looking into the non-league system now, because there are some really quality players in there. I'm not saying they will necessarily develop into International players but it does show how not all hope is lost for the young Englishmen out there.

  • Comment number 9.

    The coverage for U17 was too little. I don't even know that England won it until now. See how the country ignored the youth until now after watching Germany so success. Shame.

  • Comment number 10.

    Looking forward to seeing how well this group does. Upto now too much preference on physical powerful players over small skilful players, like Pearce using 3 dm's in the u21s which means they most likely won't qualify now. The latest u17 group is one of the best technically, the worst was last years u20 group where alot of players were not released and the team only managed to score 1 goal. Progress is being made, u19 and u21s were runners up last year and u17s won this years.

  • Comment number 11.

  • Comment number 12.

    Diatribe not inserted.

    Nice blog, blogger. I like the idea of a coherent style of play. Not likely though, perhaps..

  • Comment number 13.

    > we now know that a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil is nothing to be ashamed of

    Yes it is!! You won't create winners with an attitude like that. You must have players highly motivated to win, with a killer instinct (but within the rules of course). If it was nothing to be ashamed of, why all the national hand-wringing? Haven't a lot of the complaints about the WC team been precisely that they didn't have sufficient motivation?


  • Comment number 14.

    Well Mr Slater

    If you want public opinion to back the FA (do you?), perhaps you would allow the public to READ Sir T's document 'Future Game' so they can judge whether it's got good things in it or not.

    As usual, you in the media appoint yourself the guardian of deciding on our behalf whilst not supplying the documentary base to allow your assertions to be analysed cooly.

    We'd rather you changed your reporting style to be honest.

    A weblink to the document please?

  • Comment number 15.

    Why not have a quota?! EU rules this and that.... don't the germans have a similar rule in the bundesliga?

    There are too many mediocre players coming from overseas, look at my team Liverpool....Philip Degen, Sotorios Kyrgiakos, Nabil el Zhar I could go on.

    We all want to see the world's best players in the premier league and a quota would not stop this, but it would stop clubs buying mediocre players because they are cheaper or perhaps a bit more experienced/polished than young english players

  • Comment number 16.

    I have predicted for a long time that this age group of U19's will be the first of many to come through the take off of Mini league football in the last 10 to 15 years ago. Mini league football brought players into the game who never got the chance before. We have got to forget this bunch of overpaid players and look forward to a glowing future if the FA get it right.
    I still believe the Premier League should govern the amount of foreign players who play in a game.

    We need to look after our future.

  • Comment number 17.

    Good article

    I think one of the biggest issue we have in turning these young stars in to players for there first teams is the acadmey and reserve teams do not play often enough and the football is often limited to the region you play in unless your playing cup football, so the don't build up enough experience to be thrown in at first team level unless injuries force the coaches hand.

  • Comment number 18.

    Clubs, and particularly their managers should be heavily encouraged to give these promising young players proper first team experience. I don't think quotas are a viable option, because you cannot legislate the employment of players from other EU countries, however perhaps the FA could be giving some sort of financial incentive to the clubs for picking English (or perhaps English + Welsh) elligible players. The RFU operates a system with a similar base, although I think it ultimately relates to extensions of the salary cap.

    I slightly disagree with the suggestion that expensive foreigners are blocking the route through for these younger players - the likes of Drogba, Vidic, Torres etc are worth their place in just about any side. The issue is with buying moderate foreigners who have a bit of experience and are unlikely to do much wrong, but also aren't likley to win you many games, rather than taking the gamble on a youngster who has come through the club's academy. The young players are likely to have a lot more loyalty to the shirt, to not cost anything like the same in salary and if they prove to be quality, have the potential to bring a big transfer fee in to the club. Might also mean that more clubs are not saddled with the crippling levels of debt that almost saw Portsmouth go under last year.

  • Comment number 19.

    Everyone knows the problem, we've been saying it since the mid 90's, and now we're in a position where the national team is truly suffering. Unless the Premier League can throw loose the shackles that come from a "must win at all costs" mentality that forces clubs to look abroad for cheaper finished articles then this will continue on and on.

    We'll soon be looking to the lower leagues for the best talent at age group level.

  • Comment number 20.

    Isn't part of the problem, aside from the number of foreigners playing in the Premiership, that a number of decent English players are hoarded by the top teams and aren't given enough game time? Players like Sean Wright-Phillips, Scott Parker, Glenn Johnson found their careers stunted at Chelsea. Peter Crouch didn't get enough playing time at Liverpool, Steve Sidwell was considered very promising after his first season in the Premiership at Reading but then hardly played at Chelsea and is warming the bench at Aston Villa. Nigel Reo-Coker was a West Ham and England Under-21 captain but has been hung out to dry by Martin O'Neill, and need I mention the way that O'Neill has treated Nicky Shorey. It's not only the presence of foreigners in the Premiership that's stunted the careers of these once-promising players, but the greed of the wealthier clubs which has often consigned decent prospects to bench-warming and which furthermore drives up the value of promising English players to levels which the average Premiership team cannot afford.

  • Comment number 21.

    14. At 07:59am on 06 Jul 2010, rjaggar wrote:
    We'd rather you changed your reporting style to be honest.

    Interesting use of the word "we" and ironic accusations of being presumptuous...

    I would like to see the document itself (a quick search via Google hasn't found it so I am presuming it hasn't been released into the public domain as yet) but otherwise I am quite happy with the style here. What I would really like is to be able to come on these blogs and post and discuss football without endless posts of condescending rubbish by people who don't get that having a different opinion or approach doesn't make it worthless.

  • Comment number 22.

    Getting back to the topic, I do agree that sometimes clubs don't help by buying up every English player going and then never using them (yes I am looking at you Chelsea), it's unrealistic to suggest that clubs would choose their English option over their best available team for the job at hand. That isn't greed, that's just sensible. It's hardly some sort of English disease, Barcalona are unlikely to leave Messi on the bench just to give a Spaniard a game.

  • Comment number 23.

    Lets not kid ourselves here

    Gerrard and Rooney pulled out of an event citing "it was inappropriate" at this moment.

    Is this situation another one of those "inappropriate" moments

    Cast your mind forward 12 months ? No full international tournaments,would suspect there will be youth ones though.

    If clubs and players are still considering it inappropriate and are looking at the bigger picture, well then you may begin to consider it "good news for England's future.

    2 swallows do not make a Summer as far as rescuing English football is concerned,once we have seen hundreds of similar situations where there is a realisation that the bigger picture benefits all ultimately, then we can look forward

  • Comment number 24.

    It's interesting that we currently have good U17, U19 and U21 sides and yet there is so much written about how Englands coaching system is failing to produce. Seems like a paradox to me and the true answer is probably that we have a good coaching system with plenty of room for improvement.

    You would think that from these teams we can expect a senior side worth supporting in 4, 6 and 8 years time. If that fails to materialise then it indicates that something goes wrong for English players after they break into premier league first teams.

  • Comment number 25.

    #24 - the problem is that they often don't break into premier league sides due to average imports making up a large proportion of squads

  • Comment number 26.

    I still think too much emphasis is being placed on the personnel available over the system and playing style we adopt. Yes..Spain, Germany and France before them reaped the rewards of having a lot of players come through together but many grew up in the same academy club-sides eg. Barca where their role in the team was more important than their indivdual talent. At their age we should be less concerned at losing the likes of Jack Rodwell and Jack Wilshere to the U-21's and more that their replacements can comfortably substitute in their absence.

    England's recent 'success' in the younger age groups will only translate to senior level if these players go through 'enmass' together learning a familiar style of play like Fergies 'babes'(Scholes, Beckham, Neville etc) did at Man U and it becomes second nature. Otherwise we'll just continue to produce the few quality Gerrard, Lampard types who are no doubt fine individual talents but just wont gel together in the same side.

  • Comment number 27.

    No national academy, fewer and fewer reserve team fixtures in the domestic league, finances squeezed to play overpaid foreign mercenaries and a drop in the number of English/British players in the top flight two flights.

    Italian football actually prospered when the Premier League took its crown as the 'best league in the world', and they imposed minimum limits on the number of Italian born players.

    No action from any of the football bodies with Burton still two years away despite being 7 years late and due to open 13 years after Lillishall closed.

    The good thing about this report is it shows young players competing and playing, what they need. What will any of this batch learn playing meaningless friendly reserve, youth team matches and the odd few minutes in a Carling Cup match.

    We deny our young talent opportunities and competitive matches then expect us to produce superstars.

  • Comment number 28.

    A decent shout for giving younger players the opportunity to play first team football maybe to increase the number players that can be loaned to a club, with particular emphasis on home nation players. The incentives for playing home nation players would also be nice.

  • Comment number 29.

    Morning all, thanks for reading/commenting. Some replies:

    oozatden (1) - Good point, and one Chris Waddle makes frequently on 5 Live. If I could think of one word to define our performances in SA it would be joyless. There was no spark, no invention and very few smiles. They looked too tight and far too worried about failing, as opposed to being excited about achieving something - beating a man, completing a clever pass, making a run, whatever. And you're right about Rooney. When it comes to international football, apart from a purple patch in qualifying last autumn, he has probably regressed since his introduction in Portugual. He terrified defences at Euro '04 and we fell apart after he got injured. What's happened? Why can't he reproduce his MU form more consistently for England?

    slightchange (4) - This, I think, is the most fundamental issue for English football to tackle but the question is how. The interesting thing about German football in recent seasons is that the number of foreign players in the Bundesliga has fallen. Only a few years ago they had a very similar native/foreign split to the PL, about 40/60. Without checking the numbers again, I believe last season it was more like 55/45. How has this happened? I asked Franz Beckenbauer this last week and he said it was to do with German clubs lacking the finances of the big English and Spanish clubs to sign top foreign talent and a marked improvement in the quality of young German talent. This last factor is exactly what Sir Trevor Brooking has been talking about for some time. We shouldn't be talking about banning/capping foreign players in the PL, we should be talking about improving the overall quality of young English talent.

    bearded_shrimper, Villain Hi-Ho, JMck (5,6,7) - I've grouped you together because I think you're talking about the same thing, this issue of imported ready-made talent blocking the progress of young English players. To be honest, it's a very contentious subject and one that cuts straight to the heart of the club v country debate.

    On the one hand, I understand why clubs feel they have to buy in the best available talent, regardless of passport, to survive/prosper in the PL and beyond. It's a cut-throat business and they are effectively competing with rival firms here and abroad. There is also the argument that British football has been enriched by great foreign talent and that our players can only learn from the likes of Bergkamp, Cantona, Henry, Ronaldo, Zola etc

    But on the other hand, there is little doubt that this makes life more difficult for young English players trying to make the transition from youth to senior football. This, in turn, makes an England manager's life more difficult as his pool of available talent is reduced, often dramatically so in certain key positions.

    We could debate this one all day but I also find it very strange that a club with an academy as highly-regarded as Man City's would pay so much for a holding midfielder surplus to requirements at Barcelona.

    jonathan-AFCB (8) - Good point re: Charlie Austin. He is very much an example of how talent can be recycled/given another chance. I think we are fast approaching a point when many Football League clubs will give up youth development entirely and simply focus their efforts on picking up the best of the rest from top-flight academies. And let's be clear about this, the wastage rates at the academies is high and decent players are often discarded by clubs for very club-specific reasons (no vacancies in a particular position, wrong style of play, personal beef with manager/coach etc). Making sure these guys aren't lost to the game is paramount. Glenn Hoddle's "second chance" academy in Spain is an example of this.

    littlejklc & gunner_zp etc (9 & 10) - You're right, more should have been made of the U17 success - it was our first real international title since 1993, which says it all really. But I am encouraged by recent age-group results on the European stage. OK, we have only won one competition but we've been making finals pretty regularly and we weren't even doing that before. In fact, we were struggling to qualify for these championships. That we are now I think is down to the academies starting to bear fruit. An 18-year-old now has probably been in the system for a decade.

    Exlimey (13) - Upon reflection, I think you're right. A 4-0 defeat is horrible however you dress it up. We shouldn't accept that kind of thing, particularly at the hands of our so-called rivals. But the point I was trying to make is that having seen Germany turn Argentina over too (and you could argue we got closer to them than they did) the hand-wringing etc might have been overdone. Don't get me wrong, I'm still fuming about our performances in SA. But it's the whole campaign that irritates me. And most of the previous campaigns in my lifetime too!

    rjaggar (14) - I always enjoy your contributions. Sadly, as Steve Tudor (21) has worked out, Future Game isn't available online so that's why I haven't provided a link to it. In fact, I'm still waiting for my copy to arrive in the post. Hope to have it this week, though, and will blog on it in my usual reporting style then.

    Right, must crack on with some other stuff now. Cheers, Matt

  • Comment number 30.

    Young English footballers need to understand one thing as quickly as they can, or their careers will die before they start. It's something that's apparently beyond too many posting on here. High-level football nowadays is a global economy. Players may be born in Brazil or Portugal or Ivory Coast or Argentina or South Korea, but they will make their careers in Spain or England or Germany or France. They travel to where the work is. They make their careers as footballers in the global era by moving and playing internationally.

    So young Englishmen need to understand that while it might be nice for them to sign for a club one hour's drive from where they grew up, those days are pretty much gone. In the global age, they are probably going to have to travel. Go abroad. Learn languages. Adapt to other cultures. Learn new techniques and tactics and ways of life. Just like the Brazilians and the Africans and the Portuguese do.

    This is 21st century football. Of course, the young English players don't have to do this. They could sit on the bench at Chelsea for a couple of years whinging about "foreigners" instead. And when the international competitions come round, they could find themselves being outmanoeuvred by Africans and Americans who don't earn what they do but who have learned to play sophisticated, modern football in the new international world.

  • Comment number 31.

    Why cant the FA and Premier league sit down and come up with a plan to minimize the amount of foreign players?

    How about a minimum of 10 English players within a maximum league registered squad size of 25, with at least 5 of those 10 being say under 25 while all English under 21's are exempt from registration rules? This way a club could still have 15 top internationals on it's books but with the amount of fixtures then English players are bound to get plenty of game time with Carling Cup, early Fa Cup and easier Premier League games.

    Players improve by playing alongside other good players, it would be nice to see the top clubs have 3 or 4 up and coming English players in their match day squads every week.

  • Comment number 32.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you, introducing a rule to enforce teams to play British players is absolutely pointless. It will only serve to reduce the quality of the league and so the quality that the young players have to reach to get into the league. We should be looking at coaching at youth levels, and contrary to the article maybe we should be encouraging the young players to enjoy themselves rather than taking it so seriously. The coaches at that level seem obsessed with winning, rather than developing talent. I remember seeing a documentary about the Ajax academy years ago, talking about how each player is played in every outfield position until they reach 16, and how they don't even play 11-a-side until they are 15.

    These are the sort of things we should be considering. I remember playing 11-a-side aged 9, what is the point in that? I also remember how the mentality of the coaches and the parents often took the fun out of it. If you tried to beat a man at right back, or play the ball out to a midfielder rather than lump it up the field you were pilloried for it.

    The much more sensible approach is to look at youth football and make massive wholesale changes. No large numbered games until they reach a decent age, smaller pitches to encourage players to work on control and technique. Maybe then in a few years we will have players capable of making Premier League teams based on merit.

  • Comment number 33.

    In my opinion, especially with the under 21's the focus is too much on winning the tournament rather than helping progress the youth. I know winning is what football is all about but look at the squad that England took to the Euro U21s, Loach, Cranie, Gardner, Richards, Onuoha, Mancienne, Gibbs, Cattermole, Muamba Rodwell, Noble, Milner, Walcott, Johnson, Lewis, Taylor, Stearman, Tomkins, Driver, Rose. Now how many of these can you say will progress into the full England team? They were chosen to play because they wanted to win, look at players like Driver and Noble there is no chance they would ever get a full England cap but were put in because they play every week for their clubs and are experianced. No wonder there are limited talented young players coming through because their place is being taken by and average 22-23year old.

  • Comment number 34.

    There are a lot of mindless comments in this discussion thread about English player quotas.

    If the coaching standard in England for children is rubbish in international terms, then the high chance is that most children won't be good enough to compete with the best international stars in club football in this country no matter how much they practice. That won't change so we are basically saying: English boys, don't bother trying because we set the system up to discriminate against you. Young boys, especially from less well off backgrounds, can't just suddenly up sticks to Spain, Germany or France to get good coaching unless they are a Lionel Messi. They must deal with what we do here. So you lot are saying: football is now a theatre for the well-to-do and we don't care about English kids. Sorry and all that: that's what you're saying.

    It's a bit of a waste of time discussing England teams if that's the standpoint of English people.

    I'd also like to add Mr Slater that there was a wonderful article by Jurgen Klinsmann yesterday about how we, the English, need to find our own team identity. It was beautifully respectful, mindful of boundaries and empowering to a fault.

    A shame that your site totally destroyed the usefulness of that article by running another, today, by George Weah. A man who didn't play in this country but who played for Capello in Italy. There is no place for Weah commenting on the football in a country he didn't play in, World Player of the Year or not and I can only assume he is speaking for Capello who feels too undermined to speak for himself.

    Please inform your editor what poor judgement that article showed.

    It had all the hallmarks of a father telling his 14 year old son that he must find his own identity before finding a woman for life, then telling him 6 months later he'd found someone who he was going to marry as a matter of course.

    I'm sure that fits absolutely with the English identity, doesn't it?

  • Comment number 35.

    I agree with EXLIMEY.

    Having watched the U21 on German TV last year.

    In the group stages Germany required a point against an England team that had already qualified for the next stages. Instead of kicking the Germans out, Stuart Pearce fielded an under strength side and the Germans managed a 1:1 draw. England then struggled against Sweden, and then in the final, after conceeding an early goal, were counter attacked, in the same manner that the German senior squad plays, and got beat 4:0.

    For the U17's this year, I believe Eurosport showed some of the games. I only knew that they were on because my Team sent two players.

    It will be interesting to see if the Premier League teams will let their U19's go. Probably more so than with their U21's.
    These players (U21's) need to learn/obtain the tournament mentality. Firstly, aiming to get through the group stages, and from there, taking one game at a time.
    If we can curb our expectations, then the further England can progress, the better it would be for everyone.

  • Comment number 36.

    Matt, good blog but one question from one of your responses.

    Do you think that the 'joyless' emotion of the English players is the fault of the media? As a reporter myself, albeit in a different field, I get very frustrated with the biased hype before a tournament, followed by the predictable verbal backlash afterwards. Surely this kind of reporting is A) unhealthy, B) unrealistic and C) vicious to the point where some players may turn their back on England? Let's not forget this is the country where David Beckham still gets some blame for jumping over a ball on the half-way line against Brazil eight years ago. The fact that Brazil had to take the ball a further 55 yards and put it in the net was totally forgotten. So if you're an England player faced with an opponent or an easy pass, what do you do? I think most of them would pass the ball, and there with it, any sort of blame.

    Off the pitch, I can imagine the media being pretty hard to live with too.

  • Comment number 37.

    It has nothing to do with pressure. Try Brazil or Spain or Italy and you will really see what playing and managing under pressure is about.

    What it comes down to is technique and culture. English culture wants to see a 'battle' and 'passion' and commitment' on the pitch. A two footed tackle is cheered a perfect pass is not. a 6 foot 15 year old lump is picked over the more skillfull smaller player. Xavi, Iniesta and Messi would never have been scouted if they were English! Until this attitude changes from the top to the bottom England will never elevate themselves from the role of also rans.

  • Comment number 38.

    Germany has 34,000 UEFA qualified coaches, England 3,000 approximately. Spain has 11,000 professional coaches, England 1000. DO THE MATHS! What, exactly, does the FA do apart from paying it's own executives vast sums?This is the richest football association on the planet, by a long way, but there is no academy on the horizon, and a tenth of the coaches that the successful countries employ. Sweet FA indeed. Obnoxious jobsworths.

  • Comment number 39.

    @32. At 12:00pm on 06 Jul 2010, Stevat wrote:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you, introducing a rule to enforce teams to play British players is absolutely pointless. It will only serve to reduce the quality of the league and so the quality that the young players have to reach to get into the league. We should be looking at coaching at youth levels, and contrary to the article maybe we should be encouraging the young players to enjoy themselves rather than taking it so seriously. The coaches at that level seem obsessed with winning, rather than developing talent. I remember seeing a documentary about the Ajax academy years ago, talking about how each player is played in every outfield position until they reach 16, and how they don't even play 11-a-side until they are 15.

    These are the sort of things we should be considering. I remember playing 11-a-side aged 9, what is the point in that? I also remember how the mentality of the coaches and the parents often took the fun out of it. If you tried to beat a man at right back, or play the ball out to a midfielder rather than lump it up the field you were pilloried for it.

    The much more sensible approach is to look at youth football and make massive wholesale changes. No large numbered games until they reach a decent age, smaller pitches to encourage players to work on control and technique. Maybe then in a few years we will have players capable of making Premier League teams based on merit.


    You are missing the point. Obviously youth coaching needs to improve, we have been given figures recently outlining the lack of top professional coaches is comparison to Europe. However there are good young players at English clubs now who cannot get a game because of mediocre foreign players. Im not suggesting 7 of a starting 11 should be English as naturally the quality would drop but please tell me how any top talent is going to rise to the surface when clubs like Man City are spending as they are, can you see them bringing anyone through their academy this season? Unless the "instant success" culture in this country is curbed then we will never produce more top quality players because no matter how outstanding a player may be in comparison to his young age of say 18 there will be a experienced, seasoned foreign player there already in place.

    We are not talking about the top foreign players but the very average ones, and there are plenty of those in the top two divisions. And there will not be a generation like the Spanish have currently got waiting around the corner every 10 years, thats not realistic. Not all positions require Messi-esque technical ability or eye of the needle passing but all round-sound football skills and calm heads under pressure.

    It amazes me how we can ever think we will produce great players when they are rarely afforded oppurtunities to play. If, like for example the Arsenal academy, most teams trained in the manner that the first team does as regards tactics and technique then surely they will be more than capable of a few appearances to prove their worth by the age of 19 or 20. Most of these kids are at there clubs from 10 years old, are we saying that our leading premier league clubs cant coach kids?

  • Comment number 40.

    Another side of this that, in my opinion, is not mentioned as much as it ought to be is that by deploying large numbers of foreign players in the premiership, FA cup, champions league, etc we are not only denying ourselves the chance the improve the overall quality of english players but we are actually helping to improve the standard of other national sides. Players like Vidic, Prince-Boateng and Fabregas and (albeit to a much lesser extent at this world cup), others such as Drogba, Evra, Ronaldo etc have obviously benefitted from regular football at the top clubs in england. Just a thought...

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm all for great foreign players, it can do no harm at all to have the likes of Bergkamp, Henry, Torres, etc in the league to not only improve the standard but also aid in the developement of academy players.

    Please though do not try to tell me we dont have young players or those who have had to drop into the Championship to rebuild their careers that are not better than the likes of John Obi Mikel, Franco Di Santo etc to use Chelsea as an example?

  • Comment number 42.


    Please though do not try to tell me we dont have young players or those who have had to drop into the Championship to rebuild their careers that are not better than the likes of John Obi Mikel, Franco Di Santo etc to use Chelsea as an example?


    Can someone PLEASE explain to me why it is that young English players apparently cannot do what the players of every country on Earth do, and go abroad to further their careers?

    Has the government taken away their passports?

    Or is it that they're too arrogant and lazy (and basically not good enough) to do so?

  • Comment number 43.

    There must be an onus on these players to take some responsibility for their future progress up to senior level.

    By that, i mean that it's no good taking the big contract with an Arsenal or Chelsea, when you know you will end up being on the bench or worse. Walcott is an example of a player that by now should be fully developed and strolling into both Arsenal & England. SWP was another very promising player who went to a "bigger" club and warmed the bench, resulting in his career suffering. He is now languishing in Man Citys subs.
    And look at Joe Cole....he was at the top club this season....but his priority of getting a 100k/wk wage packet instead of forcing his way into the 1st team on 60k/wk, has meant Chelsea have dumped him. That high wage demand is what is now hampering his signing for any clubs like Spurs or Man U. and focussing on his football and getting back in the England team.

    What is wrong with English football?? Money & Greed.

  • Comment number 44.

    I noticed someone mentioned the much banded about "Quota". The reason it hasn't come into force is because no-one has really thought it through properly enough.

    For example, in EU law you can't say to a club you can only sign 3 players of non GB nationality, as that contravenes employment laws, but... if the premier league really wanted to, they could state that no more than 3 non GB players are included in a matchday squad. That way Man City, Arsenal and whoever else could sign as many foreigners as they liked, but could only play 3 at any given time.

    The other thing I think should be implemented is a squad size cap. In Spain its 25 players over the age of 18. I think there may also be a stipulation in there that at least 4 are players that have been brought through the clubs youth ranks. Either way, it means that the mighty Barcelona and Real Madrid can only pick from a squad of 25 players (over 18) in their domestic league, and so while this means they may have the best 25 players, there is no benefit to doing a Man City or Tottenham and going out trying to sign everyone in sight because at least that way no-one else can. A player wouldnt go to a club where he was obviously going to be out of that 25 player limit and so not get a game for the entire first half of the season (you can change which players are in your 25 at christmas).

    Having a squad cap would mean less decent players sitting on over paying clubs benches. This would hopefully mean that some of the emerging talent 18 + would not get swallowed up and largely forgotten like they do now.

  • Comment number 45.

    I agree with StGeorge11103

    Joe Cole is everything the public dislike about the modern footballer.

    Money before glory - it stinks. I have no doubt he will get his £100k a week, but it says a lot that he just left the League Champions because he wouldnt accept a mere 60k a week.

    Outstanding ability, but whether he has the right attitude on or off the pitch is questionable.

    Totally agree about squad size cap, it is beyond a joke that Chelsea or whoever can buy Johnny Foreigner for X million and send him on loan to team X, merely to prevent team Y from buying him.

    How you police it of course, is another matter, clubs will undoubtedly try to find a way around this squad size cap.

    Does it include youth players for instance? What happens to the clubs who can't field an eligible XI, due to injury, suspension, players going AWOL and so on. Do they forfeit the match?

  • Comment number 46.

    At 3:26pm on 06 Jul 2010, Johnnygray26 wrote:

    Can someone PLEASE explain to me why it is that young English players apparently cannot do what the players of every country on Earth do, and go abroad to further their careers?

    Answer - the best English players have at one point or another, the fact is the vast majority are not wanted by foreign clubs, because they are not good enough.

    Our last decent crop of England players, Gazza, Platt, Ince, Lineker all played abroad for top clubs, it is no coincidence.

  • Comment number 47.

    All these people wanting squad size limits and a limit on foreign players, do you not read the news? squad limit of 25 coming in next season with a minimum of at least eight "home-grown" players in each squad

  • Comment number 48.

    Kop4life - I don't have the answer but its an interesting question. I don't agree it because their not good enough more due to prohibitive wages and transfer fees. The strength of the lower leagues, I think, is often over looked as a factor, its easy for players to drop in to the championship and still earn good wages here where as France, Germany, etc have weaker second tiers leading to players looking to foreign leagues

  • Comment number 49.

    Firstly the Home Grown ruling won't pacify the nationalistic majority that seem to be on here, as it simply implies they have to have trained at the club under the age of 18. Most Premier League Academy squads have a multitude of nationalities in their squads, so it won't make a bit of difference. You could in theory have 8 home grown French players playing for your club next season to satisfy the quota.

    In any case, I'm not missing the point. If you take away a free market, and enforce a quota of English players all you are doing is reducing the level of quality that young players need to achieve to be picked on merit. Rash decisions like this won't help the national team at all, even in the 70s and 80s when there were very few foreign players, we still had a rubbish national team. To blame the decline of our team on foreign players is both ignorant and pointless. If the young English players were better than their foreign counterparts, then they would be getting played would they not? They won't be better until we coach them in the right way. No youth football should be competitive, should be about fun and playing in every position possible and learning as much as possible. You shouldn't be allowed to play 11-a-side until you're 15 or 16 - get them as many touches on the ball as possible.

  • Comment number 50.

    ' To qualify as home grown, a player will have had to be registered for at least three seasons at an English or Welsh club between the ages of 16 and 21.'

    ...well thats going to help a great deal doesnt it lol...
    I really wonder how Messrs Ferguson and Wenger are going to get round this one lol.
    Foreign owned, foreign managed and teams comprised of all foreign players...welcome to 'English' football.

  • Comment number 51.

    Most of the posts here are simply silly. Foreigners are not ruining the England team. If you disagree, please explain all of the horrible England teams that existed long before the increase in foreigners in the Prem. England is not on the level of the true top football nations and has never been. Take the fairly lucky one off 1966 home win out and England is a clear second tier nation and usually performs at that level.

    Quota systems will do nothing to help England but will reduce the quality of the Prem and could actually make the situation worse for young English players. The "home grown" system increases the value of clubs bringing in foreign talent as early as possible so I'd expect the number of English players to actually decrease at top academies under this system. That makes it less likely that potential world class English lads will get the early coaching needed to reach their potential. There is no evidence that top quality English players are getting forced out of the game by foreigners. I'd suggest that the talent is simply not there and that England's performance in the last few World Cups is exactly equal to the level of talent available so expectations are a problem.

    Reducing foreigners will not help the poor coaching found in England, will not fix the many clubs using outdated tactics, and will not remove the agricultural tackles/fouls that make English leagues unfriendly to possession-focused players and clubs. The often lauded physical, constant running game seen in England when combined with pressure on match officials to let players get away with fouls that would result in cards and sending off abroad make it very difficult for all but the best clubs to play the style of football that works at the World Cup. That is why you see so many mid to bottom table Prem clubs that lack even basic skill on the ball and the situation gets worse as you drop down leagues.

  • Comment number 52.

    Good article Matt!

    Always good to read about our nation's future and seeing that its bright! (looking that way)

    I remember Rafael Benitez mentioning the reserve teams of the Man Utd's, Arsenal's and the Chelsea's, and putting them in the league, like in spain were they play in the lower leagues. Now I am not saying its the best idea, but is it a bad one?

    The young players will get to play competitve football for their clubs and recieve the training and coaching from the top quality coaches that the club posess, and play against players in the lower divisions who have something to play for. The young players would still have something to prove, and would be a very good learning curve. I wonder if there is any coincidence that the spanish youth has dominated the tournaments like you say, and all the big clubs have reserve teams that play in the league.

    Also, well done to England U17's on winning the tournament, I watched a couple of tournaments, and thought that Will Keane, and Luke garbutt were 2 very good players. Very surprised to see them beat Spain in the final as they were destroying teams in previous rounds.

    Good luck to England U19's! Hopefully we have something to actually celebrate this summer, instead of being left disappointed by certain 'world-class' english players.

  • Comment number 53.

    At last, in Cannon another voice of reason. In my opinion, allowing English players a free ticket into the Premier League is not the answer. Sure we might see more English players kicking about on a week-to-week basis, but ultimately they won't be as talented as previously required to play in that league. If we want our players to be able to compete with foreign players in international tournaments, then surely they should be good enough to play in the Premier League ahead of the same foreign players? Grass roots is the only answer as far as I can see, we need to abandon competitive matches for kids under 16, what difference does it make to their development? I want to see less pressure on kids, more coaching of control and movement. More small sided games with smaller balls when they are younger, get them as many touches as possible in a game.

  • Comment number 54.

    Lots of good thoughtful responses. One frequent comment in this and other post-mortem how-do-we-fix-it blogs is that kids games should not be competitive. I disagree. Kids are naturally competitive and almost always want their own team to win.

    Yes there may be too much emphasis on winning, but we surely don't want to train all competitiveness out of them.

    Kids will practice and master ball-control skills but they will always be looking forward to the chance to put those skills to use in the subsequent 'game'. OK, that game should be small, and fun, but good luck trying to motivate kids by telling them that they'll be able to use their new-found skills 'some day'.

    To quote Vince Lombardi "Winning isn't everything - but wanting to win is."

  • Comment number 55.

    Evening all, a few more short replies:

    JohnnyGray26 (30) - Agreed. Travel is supposed to broaden the mind. I think it's just become too easy for our best players to stay at home and collect big cheques (from their clubs and sponsors). But I also wonder if foreign clubs look at our players and say 'they're just not worth it, not at those prices anyway'.

    neil_h (31) - It would be nice, wouldn't it? Problem is that the clubs operate across borders, so any solution to this must involve Uefa and Fifa. Blatter's 6+5 idea isn't perfect but it's probably the best we've got.

    Stevat (32) - You're right about the importance of playing for fun but the youngsters I'm talking about are more in the 5-11 group...they shouldn't be worrying about results. There's nothing wrong with competition per se but we need to introduce it once the basics have been properly mastered.

    toms7 (33) - I think a balance has to be struck between learning and the needs of the first team AND actually winning things (because winning is ultimately the aim of the game and is more fun than losing). I'm quite happy for the people in their late teens to be focused in victory, I was, it's the younger teens playing percentage football that worry me.

    rjaggar (34) - I have no idea what you are talking about. Sorry.

    Erfstadt Exile (35) - Your comment about the German U21s doing to our U21s what their seniors did to our seniors is very interesting. I think that is what Brooking & the FA are talking about when they say they want all English academies working from the same plan. Wouldn't it be great if our youngsters were trained to play in a similar coherent pattern?

    dougd22 (36) - Good point. But what is they say about a country deserving the media it gets?!? I'm not excusing the worst excesses of our football press but is it a case of reporting something that's not there or just holding a mirror up to the nation? I don't know the answer, by the way!

    JamTay (37) - I suspect you may be right. That said, I do worry about the move towards a game without tackling or any kind of physical challenge. I still think that's an essential component of the game. But I agree that it can be overdone and we place too much emphasis on it in our country.

    juninhowept (38) - The numbers are very worrying and sadly speak for themselves.

    Matthew Jackson (40) - That is a very good point and it's one I've heard plenty of foreign players make themselves ie a stint in English football has sharpened their skills/toughened them up. Wouldn't it be nice if our players could go abroad to improve their tactical knowledge, ball retention, technique etc??

    And on that note I will leave it. Thanks again, M

  • Comment number 56.

    #7, JMcK, in footballing terms Stephen Ireland is just as foreign as any other foreign player. He plays/played for the Republic of Ireland, not England. Which leads into #50, cannon's comments. Won't disagree with some of your points, but actually I would say we've always had a lot of foreign players in our game, it's just that they were British or Irish foreigners, i.e. Irish, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh. Before they went continental I seem to remember Liverpool being dominated by these players. Was that really that much different to the current situation? Shouldn't we consider this might also have stifled the progress of England? No-one's mentioned it.

  • Comment number 57.

    Following on from #56, is it just a coincidence that the football demise of the home nations coincides with the influx of the more foreign players filling roles that they would have done in the past?

  • Comment number 58.

    And, sorry about this, following on from #56 AND #57, could you say that the demise of Liverpool has coincided with them not not being able to hoard a lot of the 'foreign' cream that used to be made up of largely Home Nations players? Now, a lot of the other clubs can tap into the cream too because there's more to go round.

  • Comment number 59.

    english young talents cost much more than foreign young talents.thats why english teams go for foreign players,same as british companies,they opt for cheap foreign labour instead of expensive home labour to save money.
    money talks nowdays simple as that.

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 61.

    "Joe Cole is everything the public dislike about the modern footballer.

    Money before glory - it stinks. I have no doubt he will get his £100k a week, but it says a lot that he just left the League Champions because he wouldnt accept a mere 60k a week."

    I'm pretty sure Joe Cole left Chelsea because he wasn't guaranteed first team football and wanted to play football, not sit on the bench at Chelsea?

  • Comment number 62.

    @49. At 5:11pm on 06 Jul 2010, Stevat wrote:
    Firstly the Home Grown ruling won't pacify the nationalistic majority that seem to be on here, as it simply implies they have to have trained at the club under the age of 18. Most Premier League Academy squads have a multitude of nationalities in their squads, so it won't make a bit of difference. You could in theory have 8 home grown French players playing for your club next season to satisfy the quota.

    In any case, I'm not missing the point. If you take away a free market, and enforce a quota of English players all you are doing is reducing the level of quality that young players need to achieve to be picked on merit. Rash decisions like this won't help the national team at all, even in the 70s and 80s when there were very few foreign players, we still had a rubbish national team. To blame the decline of our team on foreign players is both ignorant and pointless. If the young English players were better than their foreign counterparts, then they would be getting played would they not? They won't be better until we coach them in the right way. No youth football should be competitive, should be about fun and playing in every position possible and learning as much as possible. You shouldn't be allowed to play 11-a-side until you're 15 or 16 - get them as many touches on the ball as possible.


    The money at stake within the Premier league prevents anyone from taking risks and actually giving young players a chance. I am not talking about the "home-grown" ruling, that is a con in itself in it's current form.

    Players who come under the clubs stewardship at say 11, have more than ample time to be developed into complete players by 18, particularly if they followed to a degree the outline you mentioned of better training. As I previously mentioned, everyone is fully aware of the need to improve training methods etc but the foreign players joining the academies are receiving the same training as English players, yet at Arsenal there are more promising English under 18's than all other nationalities put together, so I for one am am not buying into the idea that young foreign players coming into the academies at 13, 14 are any better than our English juniors. There is no evidence of this at all, in fact most of the younger foreign players established within the first teams of top clubs have been signed for actual transfer fees at 17, 18 when they are nearing the end of their developement, it's not that they are coming through the academies and are naturally better than English lads.

    Training methods do need improving, Im not disagreeing with you on that Stevat but the number of average foreign players is the problem. I also think we should encourage young players of 17 or 18 to go on loan abroad to play in 2nd tier, dutch, french or spanish football for a time, to broaden their horizons as far as football is concerned.

  • Comment number 63.

    @50 I really wonder how Messrs Ferguson and Wenger are going to get round this one lol.
    Well I can't speak for Fergie, but I think you'll find that Arsenal's squad actually already fulfills this criteria with regards to young players...say what you like about his policy of signing youngsters, but Arsenal are pretty much ready for this kind of ruling if it came into force already.

    A good example is Wilshire, a very promising player who has been with the club since he was 8, if memory serves! In fact, I'm quite suprised at how few mentions Arsenal have got. For example, giving young players a chance: Well obviously Wenger is known for his policy of playing young players in the Carling Cup, but outside of this...
    (The numbers mean Starts/Sub appearances)
    Jack Wilshire (ENG) spent half the season on loan at Bolton playing first team EPL football. (11/2)
    Jay Simpson (ENG) spent the whole season on loan at QPR (37/5)
    Henri Lansbury (ENG) spent the whole season on loan at Watford (35/4)
    Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (ENG) 3 month loan with Blackpool (7/5), then finished the season with Doncaster (12/2)
    Kyle Bartley (ENG) spent the second half of the season on loan at Sheffield Utd (10/4)..and spent half of that period out injured as well as making a first team debut in the Champions League against Olympiacos!

    These are just ones I can easily find the figures for, but in addition Gavin Hoyte spent the season at Brighton and Mark Randall was at MK Dons, both as regular starters, i'm lead to believe. Luke Freeman, one of the top scorers in the Premier Academy League has already agreed a season long loan at Yeovil Town for the 10/11 season!

    My main point is, people should look at the model Wenger has implimented at Arsenal and wonder why more clubs haven't done the same. Yes, in the first team we only have one established English player in the form of Walcott, with Gibbs and Wilshire knocking on the door, (although I would point out that under the rule of a player between 16-21 having to have been signed by a team for 3 years minimum alot of the foreign youngsters like Nordtveit and Barazite and even first teamers such as Denilson, Traore and Vela would qualify just fine) but because of his emphasis on youth development and blooding youngsters early we have a large group of talented ENGLISH players coming through, with first team experience as well as the habit of winning in the Reserve and Academy leagues. I'm not saying they're all going to make it at Arsenal, or become future England players, but look at Bentley...he did alright after coming through the Arsenal system, didn't he? Muamba seems to be doing pretty well, also!

    Maybe if more clubs were doing this the future of English football would be even brighter? Obvious as an Arsenal fan my main experience is with my club, but I'd be honestly suprised if many, if any, other big clubs could boast the same level of English talent with any experience coming through the ranks?

    I'd love to hear if there are some examples! Matt? Any thoughts?

  • Comment number 64.

    Whilst reading this thread I've yet to hear anyone make a comment over the "45 minute" rule that is in place on clubs with academies. It was the introduction of this rule, in some part led by London clubs bemoaning United's "Class of 92" containing the likes of Beckham, that has had an effect on where clubs look to bring in young talent.

    If we rid ourselves of this damaging rule, the clubs with the better academies will once more be able to collect the talent from any where in the country without having to consider all the costs that it does now. I'm sure that over a period of time the amount of non UK youngsters coming into the game would decrease with this rule gone. I also feel that the EU should look at ways of conforming the laws of it members state so that clubs across Europe can sign players to first pro contracts at the same age. This might lesson the instances where by English clubs have signed players as they are able to before the current parent clubs can. This would make it a level playing field for all.

    With that said, I'm also of the thinking that our youngsters need to play small sided games, and learn to techniques over power and strength. This may sound harsh, but if we start now, we may have a generation by 2022 to challenge for the World Cup. I've already written off 14 and 18 due to the way we coach youngsters over here.

    As for the comments over the media, I agree they whip the nation into a frenzy every time and then turn on who ever. I still recall the effigy of Beckham outside Upton Park in 98. The media played it's part in that and continue to do so, as it pays them to do so. The majority of football fans would have known that this team wasn't good enough, in the 60 years since England's first entry into the World Cup, I'd say 58 (pre Munich Air Crash), 62 (same as before about the crash), 66 and 2002 where the best occasions where by we had a chance to win the World Cup. Out of them 4 occasions injury or disaster ruined our chances. We have to be realistic and not get whipped up by the media when ever England play. The current arguements etc, over the coach and now foreign players is crazy, the coach is one of the best in the world, and the foreign players can't be blamed for not qualifying in 74, 78 or 94 can they?

  • Comment number 65.

    #64, agree with everything you say, but would add we had a pretty good chance in Italia '90. When we had the best team in the tournament, midfield of Barnes, Platt, Gascoigne and Waddle, strikeforce of Lineker and Beardsley. All world class players, and how different to know - these are all players that fans loved, genuinely talented but also down to earth and approachable.

  • Comment number 66.

    @#65, Italia 90 in hindsight yes we had a chance, in some part due to injuries to key players and also the change of system got us playing really well. Whilst respecting Bobby Robson as a manager I always felt he got a bit lucky in getting us to the QFin 86 and SF in 90.

    However, just to add my thoughts to the discussion about English players moving abroad, the likes of Waddle, Platt and Gazza from that team went to play abroad and came back better players for it. How many English players today are playing abroad? 1 or 2 are in Europe, 4 or 5 possibly in the MLS and the same maybe in the A League. Apart from Jermaine Pennant who has had problems in Spain, as he has near enough every where he's played, no one from England is playing in the major European leagues. We are technically not good enough to do so.

  • Comment number 67.

    I know what you're getting at, but I think along the same lines as Waddle here. It's not a dearth of technical ability we lack, it's merely a lack of intelligent players. Football is a simple game of space and movement, made complicated by tactics and coaches. The things that Xavi and Iniesta do are fantastic to watch, but basically all they do is move into space, receive the ball and play it ten or twenty yards. Any professional player in the UK is capable of doing that. I agree that first touch could be improved in a lot of players over here, and technique should be looked at more closely - I just think that the lack of intelligence in our players is far more damaging.

  • Comment number 68.

    Oh, and regarding the list of players going on to work abroad from that team, you could add Robson himself to the list. A truly great manager, who looked to play a similar style of football to what we see from the German team under Loew today, quick movement, interchange and counter.

  • Comment number 69.

    I agree there is talent out there. Sadly, that will pretty much be nullified as these players are released by their club for not being big ebough names or nor being the 'end product' needed to keep the money coming in. Even if they do make it in the Premier, we have to ask if it's the right place to learn your trade. It's fast and it's exciting, but it doesn't win all that much at European level despite all the money pumped into it, and great Premiership players like Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney, Terry et al are often found wanting at international level, even against minnows.

    Maybe the money in the PL is stifling our game, keeping players who really should have gone abraod to broaden and improve their game locked into the league simply because it pays more? If Gerrard had gone to somewhere like Italy or Spain a couple or more years ago, he'd be the complete midfielder now. Instead he remains a Liverpool talisman who simply doesn't produce for his country.

    We need more of our players to go abroad and sample a different type of game. The foreigners who come to our shores already have a different way of playing embedded into them, so they find it easy to adapt back into it when they play at international level. Ours don't. We know only one way to play. The evidence appears to suggest that it's the wrong way.

  • Comment number 70.

    I, like many I suspect, did not know anything about our success at U17 level. Media coverage broadly reflects what people want to see, hear and read, so if the majority continues to support Premiership teams and watch mainly foreigners playing football, unfortunately that is where most of the media will be.

    If we force Premiership clubs to field more English players, this could have a detrimental effect ie the best English players end up playing even more games in order to keep up the minimum quota = more tired & injured prior to major championships?

    1) We must either reduce the number of matches played by Premiership teams, or allow them to field B teams ie do away with the rule that they must always field their strongest team, or both. This allows more rest for the best players and gives more opportunities to younger English players to play in the Premiership.

    2) Perhaps Capello & team England should also take the lead from now on by organising more England friendlies and selecting half the team from these U17/19/21 players, in order to give them a chance to gain more experience against stronger opposition, while blending youth & experience.

  • Comment number 71.

    #66 - I really don't think it's lack of technical ability that prevents English players from moving abroad. If that were the case, you wouldn't see Real Madrid being linked with Gerrard and Cole every year. It really is obvious that the main reason is that most Englishmen cannot adapt to a life abroad, in a different culture. Footballers are usually less well educated than people in other professions, and therefore the chances of them learning a whole new language is practically nil.

    I mean, blimey, most Brits abroad resort to the age-old technique of saying "DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?!" really loudly to locals, so it's no surprise to see English players not wanting to take a chance when they can still have fish and chips, beer and the Sun newspaper while playing in Manchester, Birmingham or London. As a people the British are generally rather afraid of trying anything new and can often be wary of experiencing a new culture, as evidenced by the thousands of people who travel to places like Mallorca or the Costa del Sol every year - and do *exactly the same things they do at home*, with the only difference being that it's a bit hotter.

    The most successful English exports have been those players who have been able to assimilate; Gary Lineker and Steve McManaman both picked up spanish pretty quickly and did really well in Spain. (incidentally, McManaman has been a revelation on US tv coverage of the World Cup - really well informed and interesting.)

    I really think it would help the English national side if more of its players were prepared to take the chance and move abroad, but I really don't think it'll happen unless they get the proverbial offer that's too good to refuse.

  • Comment number 72.

    I do agree, Blaggard (good handle, too!), that the traditional English parochialism is a factor. Witness also the incredible complaint by the England players of being bored between games when they were in one of the most vibrant and historically interesting places on Earth. Maybe they were confined to barracks? I think I would have found a way to organize a trip to Robben Island at least. Only the boring are bored.

  • Comment number 73.

    And furthermore, maybe learning about the hardships that the inmates there overcame in order just to form and play in their league might have inspired the three lions to show a bit more passion, hunger and committment themselves.

  • Comment number 74.

    ExLimey - I have to say that I was livid when I heard about the England players being bored. Probably not enough nightclubs and Aston Martin dealerships! I mean, they were in South Africa! If the FA wants to comp me on a first class trip there, I'm game. An incredible place that I'd love to be able to spend some time. I'd even have filled in at centre-half for them. (lets face it, I'd have done better than Terry!)

    Really feel that there was a lost opportunity here for England players. Being in a country with such a disparity between rich and poor could have been a real eye opener and a great chance to actually do some good. I don't think it would have been too much of a hardship for Club England (barf) to get out there and get involved with some initiatives in the community; this was, after all, the whole point of giving the WC to South Africa in the first place. And hey, seeing (for example) kids in a local township get excited about their heroes having a kickabout with them might have genuinely inspired them. Sadly, though, I fear the ivory towers may have disappeared into the clouds.

    Also, given that Holland are in the final; I wonder if going to Robben Island would be a diving trip. (sorry)

  • Comment number 75.

    Hear, hear, Blaggard, couldn't agree more. But I fear the trip to Robben would have been a flop :-)

  • Comment number 76.

    @ Blaggard and ExLimey, whilst the boredom issue that needs to looked at, I'm quite sure that had they gone on a trip to Robben Island, and then lost the media would have turned that onto the team and gave the world the view that they are on a sight seeing tour rather than in South Africa for the World Cup.

    Capello was possibly trying too hard to make sure the team stayed in the hotels, but anything else the press would have turned against the team. That is a no win situation.

    As for the "British" mentality when outside of the UK, I agree it is an issue and that some of our top players don't lack technically, however when the conversation has been about ordinary foreign players coming over then, taking the opposite view I can't see that happening. I know he's Irish, but could you see say someone of the like of John O'Shea being bought by a oversea's club? As good as he is for United and Ireland, would he cut the mustard as they say in Spain, Italy or Germany?

  • Comment number 77.


    That's a fair point (the John O'Shea thing). But if foreign teams could get him for 60% of the salary on their local players, and if he could speak the language pretty much fluently from day 1, I'm sure they'd be interested. British players seem to want too much money, and that - coupled with the transfer fee premium that seems to be applied by the selling clubs (*how much* for James Milner?!) - is also a major stumbling block for teams abroad taking a chance on the players.

    The ironic thing is, that with the current tax rules in place, especially in Spain, foreign clubs wouldn't need to pay as much in salary. I remember reading that Pennant is on quite a bit less at Zaragoza, but because of the tax breaks footballers get there, he actually gets more 'take home' pay.

  • Comment number 78.

    I've followed England's youth sides closely in the last couple of years. I enjoyed watching the U21s last summer (Despite the final) and look forward to the U19s which start next Sunday.
    I have been a supporter of the potential 6-5 rule. Whereby six of the players on the team on the field must be homegrown players. Ultimately this would benefit English football on a club and international scale. I'd rather see names like Smith, Jones, Davis rather than Bilyaletdinov. It's time to bring the ENGLISH back into the ENGLISH Premier League!

  • Comment number 79.

    I have to disagree with the practice of many of the top clubs putting foreign youngsters through English teams youth teams. It just seems wrong for us to turn our backs on all the British talent out there.

    Perhaps the pot of premiership money should be reduced and more funnelled towards youth at a lower level? Maybe 40% of the wages of youth team coaches could be paid or where specialists cannot be afforded perhaps the courses for the senior players paid for to take the Junior level coaching certs?

    I seem to remember seeing that Real Madrid and Barca had their own second teams in the lower reaches of the Spanish leagues which allowed their younger players to get experience. How would people feel about that kind of scheme. I would relish hearing the opinion of the followers of lower league/ non league teams, would you mind playing Chelsea or Man Utd B week in, week out? Do the big teams in Spain still do this?

  • Comment number 80.

    This is all very well but the problem is the money surrounding the Premier League, imo, and the amount of foreign players there.

    No club is going to give most of these boys a chance at 1st team level when :

    a) They can simply buy an already experienced and established foreigner

    b) The risk of losing a ridiculous amount of money for each place they finish in the PL is so great. The season, silverware-wise, peters out for 90% of PL clubs each season - but the financial rewards go on right until the end. Clubs are not going to risk big money by playing an 18yr old.

    I fear that, even if the U19s emulate the U17s, for both groups this is as good as it is going to get, and most of them will end up in the Championship or L1 in 5 years watching foreigners take the PL plaudits, and places.

  • Comment number 81.

    In reply to M_D... a non-league fans we do not want our clubs turned into farm teams for the bigger clubs. It may sound strange to fans of big clubs but we are just as proud of our teams and just as passionate. Chelsea B and Man Utd B can play in their own reserves league. Leave our clubs alone!

  • Comment number 82.

    Matt, Rooney hasn't played anywhere near his scintillating best (And I'm saying this as a liverpool fan) since February or March. He looked burnt out. And this is his third international tournament. In 2004, he was still fresh and hadn't been run into the ground as I recall, 2006 he was hurried ack from the dreaded metatarsal injury, and looked unfit and frustrated. This year he looked even more unfit and frustrated tough it appears he has finally learnt to count to ten and calm down. He has been carrying MU since Ronaldo left. He is their only truly world class player they have left. (Vidic is a cenre back and useless in terms of team carrying and Nani is nowhere near world class). So a teensy bit of optimism might not go amiss.

  • Comment number 83.

    The trouble is that the casual football supporter wants success for the country; the devoted football supporter wants success for their team and it is the devoted football supporter who pays the bills.

    I would class myself as a casual football supporter. I have followed my team, which is in the Premier League, for over 50 years. I am pleased when they do well, I am pleased when even one of the team gets a chance to play for England, but I have only ever been to a handful of matches. I would love it if England could make a better showing in International Tournaments.

    A devoted fan goes every week to support their team and quite naturally wants to see them win. Some devoted supporters want to see good exciting football as well, but the win is the most important thing. They would like England to do well, but that is only every couple of years and they watch their team every week. They expect to see the finished product playing every week. They don't have the patience to see a young player develop, when they know that a more experienced (and more skillful) import can be bought at the price of a couple of weeks gate receipts. They pay to see winners not training matches.

    I cannot criticise the devoted supporter as it is their money that pays for my passing entertainment. However the result is that few English players get the chance to develop.

    A other concern is that even if a young player does get a chance in the first team one of two things happens. Either their talent is immediately recognised and the burden of expectation starts to crush them, or they are not allowed to develop as they have it beaten into them that their job is to get the ball to ........ and their potential is not fully explored.

    My final question is to find that tipping point when those players with undeniable talent stop being motivated by the love the game and are driven by an overbloated celebrity status and the money it brings. They are the ones who are ruining the game. They are the ones who want to be praised for the wonderful tricks and skill they have, but will go over at the slightest touch or use their skill to trick another player into fouling them.


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