Lack of England-qualified Premier League starters must change, says Southgate

Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling
Five clubs, including Manchester City and Tottenham, have the maximum number of foreign players in their squads

England manager Gareth Southgate has called for change to "arrest the slide" of the number of English players starting Premier League games.

Only 30% of top-flight starters during the 2018-19 season qualified to play for England - down from 33.2% the previous year and the lowest figure in Premier League history.

Of the top six team's starters, only 19.9% were English.

"There's a clear diminishing number there," said Southgate.

"There's some discussion around developing players that is important. There's some discussion around work permits moving forwards which might affect some of that.

"The first thing we've got to do is arrest the slide. We have to stop that graph slipping.

"Because it isn't correct to say we're not developing good players. I think that's really important."

The Premier League saw its closest title battle in years this season as Manchester City - featuring Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Phil Foden - pipped Liverpool, captained by Jordan Henderson, to top spot on the final day.

In Europe, Liverpool and Tottenham will meet in the Champions League final on 1 June while Chelsea face Arsenal in the Europa League final.

England reached the World Cup semi-finals in Russia last year and are preparing for the inaugural Nations League Finals next month, while the national age-group teams have enjoyed repeated success in recent years.

"The big concern for me is this graph continues to fall away and that we end up in 10 years' time with an England manager who has got 15% of the league," Southgate said.

"And why wouldn't that happen? Because it has dropped 15% in the last seven or eight years, so there's no sign of that being arrested because more money coming in, global market. That is a big danger for us."

Will changes caused by Brexit help?

The FA hopes to use Brexit talks to cut the maximum number of non-home-grown players in top-flight squads from 17 to 13.

However, in November, the Premier League said there was "no evidence" placing further restrictions on foreign players would improve England teams.

After Brexit, EU players would no longer have free movement between clubs and instead be regulated in the same way as non-EU players.

"Brexit is offering an opportunity because there will have to be change," Southgate said.

"I think the proposals that the FA have put forward have tried to balance keeping the success of the Premier League and recognising that is a product that works for us as a country.

"But we saw 40-odd million people or more enjoying last summer and the impact of the national team as well and what that can bring.

"We are trying to achieve something that not many other countries have had: a successful league and a successful national team. That's a huge challenge."

The FA is working with the Premier League, EFL and the government as talks continue.

"Our job as a governing body must be to protect the interests of both - to protect the interests of the club game but to give the national team and its importance for our people the right level of support and opportunity to succeed," said Southgate.

"And I think that is possible. I think you can have a successful league and a successful pathway for the national team.

"That needs grown-up conversations and I think there are a lots of good people in football who are more than capable of having that - and the more we can be joined up it's a really powerful force."

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