This week, the suggestion from Roy Hodgson that England might be interested in Manchester United midfielder Adnan Januzaj, the Belgian born youngster, becoming an England player re-ignited the debate about foreign players in the Premier League and the affect it is having on the current England squad.
Opta today revealed that English players account for less than a third of minutes played in the Premier League. It’s really sad, in my opinion, that in our top league there is such a lack of English talent. I don’t think it would be fair, necisarily to say that its because young English players aren’t good enough, but more because they are not given a chance. One example I can use, as a fan of the club, is Reading, who over the past few years has been excellent in presenting an opportunity for youngsters, and recently had their academy upgraded to Catergory 1 Status. Current players such as Alex Pearce, Hal Robson-Kanu and Jem Karacan have all come through the youth system there, and they strive to present that opportunity for the young players. Manchester United, in my opinion have been good at doing that as well, and even if they can’t present first team opportunities for players at United, they have always been good at sending players out on loan to gain valuable first team experience in order to ready them for a first team chance. In recent years players such as Jonny Evans, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverly have all come through the youth system there, and are now regulars in the United team.
Other clubs however I feel don’t try hard enough, such as Chelsea and Manchester City, and more recently Newcastle. It’s impossible to say to a team that they must have more English players than Foreign because that is never going to happen. I think the real problem that needs to be adressed is the opportunities for our youngsters. If they have the opportunity and are not good enough, then we move on, but some talent gets wasted. Arsenal more recently have been good with Theo Walcott, Alex Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey coming from our home nations. For me it is sad to see what is happening at Newcastle, who currently have no home nations players in their first team, yet are managed by an English manager, with an English chairman. Chelsea have never been a club that is known for its English core, however John Terry and Frank Lampard do both start for the London club, but once they are finished with their careers it will be a different story once again at Chelsea. Brendan Rodgers has managed to keep a good English core in his side, with the likes of Henderson, Gerrard, Sterling, Moses and Sturridge. I think it’s fair to say that Man City are a side that really let the English game down with their big spending on Foreign stars, however dispite that Milner, Hart, Lescott and Richards are very much in the plans there.
One team that really impresses me, and always has is Southampton. A fantastic acadmey which has produces some top class stars such as Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Chamberlain and the recent crop like Adam Lallana. They have a perfect blend, they are spending money on top players to help them progress, but if you look at their line up from their win away at Swansea they had Fox, Clyne, Lallana, Davis and Lamber representing our home countries. They have always been good at giving youth a chance, regardless of who is in charge at the club.
What my solution is is this. Yes, big clubs like Man City could avoid bringing in as many foreigners as they do, but ultimately I think that every club should be giving english youth a chance. Work should be done on academies across the board working hard to make those opportunities available. I think the recent rules about home grown players are fantastic, but I wouldn’t stop there. I do think it is a massively important issue which should be adressed, and if we give the players these chances we could see the England squad getting stronger. There is no doubt there is some quality English youth out there, they just need their chance.