Are Premier League clubs doing enough for English youth?

Manchester United’s Tyler Blackett has gone from a loanee to starting for Manchester United every week under Louis van Gaal.

It is great to see a young English player getting a mass of chances for one of the biggest teams in the world. He got caught out by Leicester and received a red card and he has received a card in every other match that he’s played in. He’s not been particularly impressive and he’s playing in the weakest Man United defence in a long time, but there’s no doubt he is going to grow as a player far quicker than he was before Van Gaal offered him his first-team chance.

If it’s not to be for Tyler Blackett, it isn’t to be, but maybe England have a future centre-back growing in stature?

I feel its important for the FA to put some control on the English youth playing at the top level. At the moment they have the ‘Homegrown Players’ rule, but that isn’t enough. The current rule insists that all Premier League clubs must include eight homegrown players in their squad of 25 for the league season.

In theory this sounds good, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that these players are English. For example, Cesc Fabregas counts as homegrown for Chelsea this season due to the fact that he joined Arsenal aged 16 and played in England for eight seasons before moving to Barcelona. All  Premier League clubs produce younger stars as all have their youth squads playing in competitive fixtures, but the prevalence of signing foreign players using the power of money is increasing significantly.

It’s about time that Premier League clubs were somewhat forced to include at least 1 English under-21 player in each match day squad. There’s not much use in having a few young English players included in the 25 man squad when they don’t stand a chance of getting a first-team shot.

I don’t feel that it’s a lot to ask for club in a nation to help produce young players for that nation, especially when a match day squad can now have seven substitutes. Of course some teams produce better players than others but that’s more for the good of English football as clubs increase the standard of their youth facilities to gain an advantage over fellow competitors.

Using Blackett as an example, he’s gaining experience that hundreds of young English players will never get. The Championship is a loaning destination and the gap between the two divisions is arguably too big for players looking to earn the experience needed to compete the highest level.

I thought it might be interesting to see which Premier League clubs are already fulfilling this quota without being forced to by FA regulations.

Using the game week just gone, I looked at each Premier League sides chosen 18 man match day squads for English players under the age of 21.

Arsenal – Calum Chambers, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Aston Villa – Jack Grealish

Burnley – None

Chelsea – None

Crystal Palace – Wilfried Zaha

Everton – John Stones, Tyias Browning

Hull – None

Leicester – Liam Moore, Jeffrey Schlupp

Liverpool – Raheem Sterling 

Man City – None

Man United  Tom Thorpe, Luke Shaw

Newcastle – None

QPR – None

Southampton – Harrison Reed, Jason McCarthy, Matt Targett

Stoke – None

Sunderland – None

Swansea – None

Tottenham – Eric Dier

West Brom – Saido Berahino, Andre Wisdom

West Ham  – Reece Burke, Eliot Lee

That means that half of the teams in the Premier League are not including a single English under-21 player in their match-day squads. Southampton’s impressive youth academy continues to produce despite producing ‘eligible’ players for Arsenal and Man United (Chambers, Oxlade-Chamberlain, & Shaw respectively).

That’s a total of 17 English under-21s who were included either in the starting eleven or on the bench. That number would be guaranteed to increase up to 20 if the rule was to be introduced and it wouldn’t ever drop below that number. Without doing the calculations for every game week, I would suggest that 17 is a decent week for English under-21s – but it’s not enough.

The FA could do more and they should do more. It is possible and relatively easy to implement.

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