Sunday, February 11, 2007

Problems with English football? Blame the foreigners!

So after a week in which another insipid, embarrassing display is turgidly eked out by our excuse for a national side, the great English national obsession has returned: when all else fails, blame Johnny foreigner.

Not only do they steal our jobs, women, parking spaces etc., it is, of course, the hoards of foreign players in the Premiership which is the cause of our current squad being even shallower than an English undergraduate student.

Says who? Says Terry Venables, England assistant coach/wet nurse. Says Howard Wilkinson, chairman of the League Managers Association. Says Steve Gibson of Middlesbrough. People, in short, whose opinions still carry much weight in the opinion-forming red-tops of England.

It's interesting to read the blame shifted onto foreigners ruining our national game in the same week that the FA decides it can't be bothered to build a national school of footballing excellence in Burton; in a week in which Crewe, a club which has survived on the production of youth talent for so long, announces its fears on the future of English academy football; in a week in which another English club goes under the hammer, sold to foreign investors who care nothing for our game aside from maximising the lucre they can make from it.

And when even Sam Allardyce is refuting these suggestions, you know how deep the systemic problems in English football run. He puts his case simply and cogently: Gareth Bale, a prestigiously talented young footballer, was, but a few weeks ago, being touted around the Premiership for a price of £10 million. At the same time, Sam signed four European youngsters for less than a million Euros in total.

The Bale example serves its purpose. It illustrates the dearth of British talent being produced, painfully exacerbating the ridiculous inflation of their prices when they come to market. Remember Curtis Davies, who we were linked with? £8 million please, minimum. Mr Kolo Toure, half a million. I doubt Arsene has to use his economic training too much when thinking of these decisions.

The only way British football will improve is by coaching youngsters properly. I read an interesting piece this week in The Telegraph, which contended that Theo's current difficulties are probably caused by the lack of technical coaching he'd received until arriving at Arsenal. He's a fast lad and was probably told to just try and knock it past players and run past them. Only now is he probably receiving a decent footballing education.

Youngsters in the UK are made to play on full-size pitches, while attributes such as aggression and power are valued over technique. And when Steve McClaren issues useless platitudes such as hoping that English courage and heart will win games, you realise how bad things have become. Footballing ability, not 'spirit of Agincourt' speeches, are what win football matches Steve. Maybe you should try coaching that, if you can.

There's no point in running some 'affirmative action' campaign to give English players a leg-up into the Premiership. If they are, they'll be found wanting even more compellingly at International level. Moreover, teams such as Brazil and Argentina have, for a long time, not been the place where their international players ply their trade. We need a situation in England in which footballers are being produced who are good enough, or have the levels of technical ability, that they can play in a variety of leagues, such as the more technical La Liga, not just the up-and-at-em Premiership.

So before blaming Arsene for the problems of England, realise why he chooses who he does. He doesn't look at the passports of young players: he looks at their ability. And the production line has been derailed in England for some time, something for which he cannot be blamed and something which has even tried to reconcile - see the handing of a professional contract to the 17 year old Mark Randall this week. If anything a reduction in the number of foreign players in the Premiership would make the situation even more dangerous. It would lower the overall standard of English football and lead to greater defeats.

I'm glad we have so many foreigners in our league: it makes our league better, more enjoyable to watch. Rather than get rid of them, we should focus on creating players who can compete with them. Only then will we have a national team worth watching.


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Anonymous said...

Surely if there are only, say 3 English players good enough for each Premiership club, and the rest made up of foreigners, that is a good thing. It shows that the English players are picked on merit, and the less good ply their trade in the lower divisions. 60 players is more than enough for a national team to pick players from. Of course this wont happen, but what I'm trying to say is that if the English beat off competition from foriengers, the national team will be better for it.

Also, McClarens job is to make the national team at least the sum of its parts. The better managers, like Scolari or Hiddink make their team greater than the sum of their parts. Sadly, his limited ability means Englands talent, overrated and overhyped but talent nonetheless, is wasted

Dong Zhou said...

Having seen England schoolboy's, don't expect England to win anything in the near future. They do keep the ball better but not at a good enough level yet. We need to reform how we train the young players, learn how to keep the ball and so tire the other side.

Premiership goals and streams said...

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jonjon said...

There should be a salary cap in football!
All the money in the premiership and barely any of it stays in the UK so its not even helping the economy! Plus it would force clubs to look locally for young talent instead of abroad.
I do some Spread Betting (or more precisely Football Spread Betting) and even if I win big its still nothing compared to the average premiership players weekly wage!!!

Nikolai said...

With all those transfers it was logical to end like this. But after all the English league is not so bad like the French and Italian league.

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