Excuses have been made since the dawn of time for all sorts of things. “I’m late because my sundial didn’t go off” or “The bus was late because the wheel hasn’t been invented yet” or even “A Stegosaurus ate my homework.” Of course, I’m being silly – dinosaurs and man never came into contact with each other outside of Jurassic Park and, if the documentary series I saw about those islands are to be believed, there wasn’t much homework-doing going on.
But excuses generally all have one thing in common – they’re utter cowpats. “I’m sorry I’m late, the bus didn’t turn up on time” is, 99% of the time, code for “I’m not actually sorry I’m interrupting your lecture, but I know I have to give a reason for doing it now that I have and I know that telling you I preferred to sleep in for another half an hour isn’t going to go down well, so here’s some rubbish I’m spouting out of my face to save both of us the embarrassment of me turning up late.”
And, of course, turning up late isn’t the only time you need excuses. Excuses are golden for when leaving early: for example, a party you didn’t want to go to (“I have to get home because I’m working in London tomorrow”), a date that isn’t going well (“My grandfather’s not well, so I have to get back”), or even an international football competition where you didn’t do as well as you and millions of others had expected (“Manchester City keep buying people from abroad, so the England team is rubbish”).
Like I said, cowpats.
It has to be City’s fault that Wayne Rooney had the control and agility of a combine harvester. Who else is there to blame that the defence looked as stable as a puddle of Nitro-glycerine near a fire? And it goes without saying that there’s only one place to look as to the reason why Gerrard and Lampard looked like two people who’d not even spoken to each other for ten years.
So, and this is a question aimed at a certain Brian Woolnough from the Daily Star, why have England not been much cop for the last 44 years? I mean, City were taken over in 2008 and Chelsea in 2003 – so that covers the last seven years, but what about the remaining 37? And why are City being blamed for the high finances of football and lack of English youth development when they are just the latest of many clubs to have spent big and, in the years just before the takeover, they were over reliant on academy products to be able to put out a team most weeks?
That transfer fees and wages are as high as they are isn’t the fault of football’s latest rich kids. Before City broke the English transfer record for Robinho, many others had broken it first, on such illustrious flops as Juan Sebastián Verón or Andriy Shevchenko. Money clearly not well spent at a time when the fees spent on those individual players were more than City’s entire transfer budget for the season.
I don’t think there’s a football fan in the world that wouldn’t prefer a team to win their league by producing a squad of academy talents all at the same time, over spending money on foreign imports. There’s always that romantic view of the team of kids showing the big boys in the league how it’s done, most of them from the area around where the club is based.
Unfortunately, as much as that would be the desired method of competing with the best, it just isn’t ever likely to happen. With the amount of prize money that has been earned by those at the top, it made them self-financing in that they were the only teams that could afford to price everybody else out of the market. They bring in better players, win more things, get more money and bring in better players.
The days when several academy graduates topple the establishment are going, if not already gone. So, when City are taken over and decide that they’d like to compete with the best, it’s unfair to blame them for inflating transfer prices. The choice was to either spend little money and remain everybody’s second favourite club or to try and compete. Competing, of course, involved bringing in better players; players whose value had previously soared.
England don’t win the World Cup and City spend big. To say the first happened because the second happened is an inaccurate and ill considered conclusion that’s far too easy and lazy to arrive at. For a start, at the time of writing, City’s squad contains no less than nine Englishmen (four from the club’s own academy) who have been regulars for the club in the past, with an additional three that are currently breaking into the first team. And that doesn’t include the six non-English academy products that have represented the first team and are currently available for selection.
Clearly, youth development is at an end because the chequebook has come out for Silva, Touré, Boateng, et al.
While it may be true that City can field a first team that contains no English players, it is also true that they can field one that contains no foreigners (though the formation would be a bit off, granted). It seems pretty churlish to point the finger at City for strengthening the squad from abroad, when there’s a potential season of 64 matches (not including any FA Cup replays) coming up and when English players are as over-priced as they are.
If recent reports are to be believed, Aston Villa’s valuation of James Milner is £30m. And, of course, should City decide to pay that amount, they would still be the bad guys, because, despite the promotion of English talent, it would be an obscene transfer fee. Should City decide it’s too much and look overseas for a cheaper, equivalent player, then the club are ruining the chances of future England teams.
The only option for City to be the good guys is to promote academy products before they are ready… The very same system of providing first team players that nearly saw the club relegated in 2007. The club is now in the position where they don’t need to rush young talent into the squad, where only the best of the best will make it through, and where those youngsters can learn from some of the best players the game will see.
Yet that is the wrong way to run a football club. Work that one out.
The problem isn’t that the influx of foreigners is stopping English youth developing. Forcing teams to play x number of English players in their team won’t increase the quality of the national team, but rather decrease the quality of the Premier League. If the youth isn’t good enough to break into the first time for any reason other than being forced in there by the rules, then those players are never going to be good enough to help England to a World Cup win.
But if the English youth is good enough, then those players will play.
If you want to look for excuses as to why England didn’t win the World Cup, you could look at poor management, incorrect tactics, the fact that we’re not as good as other teams that have gone further than us… But the takeover of Manchester City and their transfers in isn’t a valid excuse.
Written By David Mooney