Whenever England disappoint and in the opinion of a few more negative members of the public, they did so on Friday. The argument and statistics on how few English players start week in week out in the Premier League is always one of the many talking points surrounding the Three Lions. But in my opinion there is no real hunger and desperation to change the current domestic league set up. The Premier League dwarfs international football in the eyes of many English football fans for excitement and as much as people would hate admit it, many are happy with the current equilibrium of an average national team and one of the best domestic leagues in the world. I’ve spoke to many people over the past few days that see international breaks as an inconvenient break from the gripping 38 game narrative that is Premier League football.
Ideas such as Sepp Blatter’s 6+5 ruling have been discussed in terms of improving the number of English starters in the Premier League. While EU laws provided an instant and difficult barrier for the FIFA president’s concept, there also appeared to be little hunger among Premier League fans to see their beloved league tampered with. Were the rules ever implemented it’s hard to imagine Chelsea fans being thrilled at having to see for instance, Juan Mata sold back to Spain to accommodate Ryan Bertrand as a regular starter for Chelsea. Or Arsenal fans instantly accepting a philosophy and squad overhaul, which would be detrimental to their chances of continuing to remain among England’s elite football clubs.
From a personal stand point as someone who supports the national team reasonably strongly but loves club football far more and cares far more passionately about the latter. I would happily welcome the changes, out of curiosity to see just how much worse the top teams in the country become. And also because my team of choice, Sunderland, would barely be effected by the changes. Four players eligible for England selection represented the Black Cats away at Manchester City, and although having to sign a couple over-priced Englishmen or promoting Fraizer Campbell and Titus Bramble may be slightly harmful, it is unlikely to make the Wearsiders much worse.
Currently the one appeasement in place to offer a false sense of helping England’s cause is the 25 man squad complete with eight home grown players required for Premier League. This has done nothing other than help players of modest ability move to club’s above their station to help fill the quota. Ross Turnbull has traveled to Stamford Bridge in the knowledge he’s never likely to be the London club’s number one. Brad Jones although Australian did qualify for the home-grown ruling, in what is the only explanation for a club like Liverpool keeping such an inept goalkeeper on their books. Other signings involving the Premier League’s biggest clubs could be scrutinised further, Daniel Sturridge’s arrival at Chelsea, and summer additions at Manchester City Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair may have been picked up due to nationality more than ability. But the key point is no system in place in the Premier League currently caters for the national team.
While a divisive figure and also a biased observer Arsene Wenger’s comments on the situation of altering a Premier League to help the national team have always rang true in my opinion. “The Premier League is the most watched league in the world and you only get that if you focus on quality not artificial rules.” This reaction to the 25 man squad rule, sums up my feelings on the situation, any more dramatic change would directly damage the quality of the Premier League, which is something most fans would be directly against. There is also an argument that the best English talents are likely to breakthrough any way. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at just 19 is already looking likely to contribute to Arsenal’s battle in all competitions for the season, while Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck have both seen plenty of game-time at Manchester United this season.
There is obviously an argument that numerous foreign players in the league clog up the route to the first team for young English talent. Jack Hobbs said you have to “world-class” to breakthrough at Liverpool. While the club policy appears to have changed at Liverpool in recent years this defeatist mentality is easy to understand when you see how few players breakthrough at top clubs. John Terry remains the last home-grown product to establish himself in the Chelsea first team. Other less pragmatic options could improve the way the Premier League treats prospects. I’m in the minority in despising the current loan system in this country. The biggest clubs often keep players on their books, who are never likely to make the breakthrough. Chris Eagles is 26 but spent five years after his first start for Manchester United in vain trying to progress at the club. An age limit of 21 on the loan system would likely have seen him reach his level much sooner. Scott Sinclair also traveled in vain across the country, being regularly loaned out. He only truly developed and flourished after completing a permanent deal at Swansea City. Regardless of the faults and merits of a major overhaul in the number of foreign players playing in the Premier League, any change is unlikely to happen because the fans aren’t clamouring for it.
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