Is the amount of foreign players playing in the Premiership to blame for England’s performance at the World Cup? This will no doubt be used as a conspiracy theory for the England team’s lacklustre displays, apparently restricting the chances of more English players getting first team football leading to a knock-on effect on the national team. However the reality is that this is nothing but another excuse in a long line of excuses being created by the media, and embraced by the public including the England players themselves. After all, foreign players or no foreign players, they do not directly affect the performances of the English players who did walk out on the pitch, the same players who have been labelled as the golden generation for years now, but bad luck or horrible fate always got in the way of their ascension to sainthood.
Well, luck or fate may exist but it was mediocrity that was the cause for their exit and the harsh reality that they really aren’t as good as they are hyped up to be. So, what problems need to be fixed for the future? There is no sole failing or solution, the problems are deep-rooted and numerous; whether it is the flawed set-up at grass roots level where there is an over-emphasis on, as Franz Beckenbauer put it, on ‘kick and rush’ football. Or the lack of a winter break, which the other major European leagues implemented years ago. But there is a more immediate problem that lies deep at the heart of English football, and that is the overly hyped and free spending culture of the Premier League.
Take for instance Arsene Wenger. He has often found himself the victim of jibes at not nurturing young English talent. Matthew Upson, Jermaine Pennant, David Bentley et al, have come and gone, never fulfilling their potential under the guidance of the Arsenal manager. The media like to suggest their failures are in fact his failures. Comical, but somewhat preposterous. I find it hard to believe that the Frenchman, who is known for bringing through young talent more so than any other manager, cannot transfer his skills in dealing with English players. It’s not as if there is a language barrier, the media hardly struggle to understand his press conferences. So what is the reason? Why does he find it harder to unearth young English gems, or make those in his ranks the ‘superstars’ they are supposed to be? Is it Wenger? Or is it more likely that these players, who have been pronounced as future starlets prematurely by the media, are guilty of becoming encapsulated by their own hype.
This is the real problem English players face – a lack of accountability. Easier to blame Capello, or Wenger, rather than point the finger at the players, the same players who are being professed by the media as world class before they achieve anything of real merit.
The influx of foreigner players simply emphasises the reality of the league and nothing else; that an average footballer is offered two or three times more in England than they would be elsewhere, even in La Liga, therefore England is an attractive offer to most footballers. And this is what makes the Premier League such a dangerous setting for young English players, because any of those who do show promise at a young age find themselves showered with praise and money instantaneously, at the first glimpse of talent. The desire for young English players to reach great heights and succeed is so strong that the Premier League coupled with the media is like an overbearing mother. They may have the best of intentions, but they prevent these youngsters from learning to stand on their own two feet. They are only being encouraged to believe the hard work is already finished before they have taken that extra step required.
It’s no wonder English players like Matthew Upson, Gareth Barry or David Bentley lack motivation to improve and find themselves overawed in the big occasions, when their mental strength is tested, they’re being paid as world class footballers before they have proved themselves deserved. It’s all a little too easy for them.
The English footballer is no longer a footballer, he has become a celebrity footballer who is beyond the normal hierarchy of a football club, where the manager is supposed to be respected and not questioned. Whatever scrutinable decisions Fabio Capello may have made as manager, how on earth has he become the scapegoat for their performances? His CV doesn’t exactly have the look of that of a bumbling idiot. He’s proven himself to be a world class coach, hence why the FA hired him in the first place, and there isn’t a single English manager with the same credentials he has, yet he finds himself the victim of a witch-hunt in a bid to tarnish his reputation. After all, England has been playing the same way under Capello since he took charge two years ago. The system they are now castigating is the same system with which they exclaimed nothing but praise and delight during qualifying, yet it has somehow become flawed when the pressure on the players to perform is more intense on the biggest stage.
Murmurings of unhappiness only appeared in the consciousness of the players after their first disappointing result because it’s easier to put the spotlight on Capello than stand up and take responsibility for their own performances. Surely it is more likely that their exit is an indictment of the flawed mentality of many of the team’s so-called world class talent than of Capello’s credentials. However, they would rather believe the media’s portrayal of a group of football star’s who are being let down by a clueless manager, when in fact they should learn to ignore the hype surrounding them. That’s what they don’t realise; head strong men win trophies, not boys blaming the teacher.
And if you’re searching for evidence then simply look at how few English players play in the other European leagues. Is it because of their undying loyalty to their hometown club? Hardly likely. More probable that the other European clubs have grasped a concept that those in England have failed to; they’re over priced and overrated. Adoration doesn’t come so easily elsewhere, it must be earned first.
Written By Darren Doherty