Manchester City have lined up with only one English player on many occasions in recent times – ten foreign outfielders and only Joe Hart flying the flag for the Three Lions.
Pundits have harpooned City and the state of modern football, like they harpooned Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal for a similar issues before. Having a team made up entirely of foreigners is a damning indictment of Premier League football, but one issue is the quality of the English players available and another is how clubs like City solve the problem.
This summer, and last as well, City have offloaded their forgotten Englishmen. Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell, Joleon Lescott, Adam Johnson and, albeit he was a first-teamer, James Milner have all left the club, leaving the Citizens in desperate need of homegrown players to bolster their squad. Only Joe Hart, Gael Clichy and Richard Wright qualified.
And so two young England Internationals have come through the door at the Etihad. One of them, Raheem Sterling, is the brightest young talent England have produced in decades, the other, Fabian Delph, is another player who is developing all the time and starting to earn much praise. Following the aforementioned pair Manuel Pellegrini reached into the Sheikh’s deep pockets once again for a third Englishman, this time a teenager with a huge potential, Patrick Roberts.
And City are still being harpooned even though they’ve bought English players. They’ll just to ruin their careers by placing them on the bench, they bought a money-grabbing prima donna for an over-inflated fee, the list of critical comments is a long one…
City are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
The favourite pastime of football’s old money is complaining about the nouveau riche and Manchester City are easy prey. Surely we should be praising City for signing young English talent, or at least reserving judgement until we see how they deal with their new signings. Bashing them before any have even played a competitive game just seems wrong.
It’s also unhelpful for England as a nation. If young English talents feel like they can’t accept moves to this country’s biggest clubs then they won’t turn into top players. You have to challenge yourself with the best if you’re going to play at the top level. The national team needs players playing at the top level.
It’s not just the players you play alongside that bring out the best in you, though. If you play for a Champions League team you’ll face the likes of Ronaldo and Messi, Hummels and Pique. If an England international doesn’t face these guys at club level every year then it’s a big jump to ask them to do it in a World Cup.
Instead we should be encouraging homegrown talent to go and play for City and the other top clubs in England. We should be encouraging them to play alongside the best players in our league and top talent in the Champions League. That’s how you progress as a player.
What we should be doing is encouraging young players to go to City and fight for their places and giving them a boost to make them believe they can do it, rather than writing stories in the papers about why this player’s career will be ruined and how he’ll sit on the bench for the rest of his contract. The ability to fight a place is psychological, and if they’re truly good enough, they’ll get game time as long as they commit to the task at hand.
But instead we lambast City for poaching English talent, and that doesn’t help. In fact, it hinders.
It’s sad to think that Raheem Sterling will be booed at most Premier League grounds rather than hailed as England’s new hero. It’s sad to think that English football will forget about Fabian Delph rather encourage him to gain a regular place in City’s starting line-up and stake a claim for his place for England.
The problem in English football seems to start further down the food chain than Manchester City, Chelsea and others. The more we encourage young talent to work hard for their careers and feel as though they belong at the bigger clubs, the better they’ll do once they get there.