England’s problems run deep – but start at the top

July 19, 2010

The recriminations following England’s earlier than expected exit from the 2010 World Cup still carry on, and news is due to come in the near future of another English coach working alongside Capello. Anyone who thinks this is going to help though had better prepare for disappointment as the problems are in my view ones that will not go away as long as the Premier League holds its current level of power within the English game.

The excellent 200% – one of the more intelligent football blogs in my opinion – has an article up at the moment about one part of the FA’s suggestions to help England – scrap FA Cup Replays to allow a Winter Break. Quite how this will help the England squad remains to be seen – a Winter Break may help, but in reality will top players benefit? It wouldn’t have helped Wayne Rooney or any other Manchester United players last season, as they only played one game in the competition anyway, and even winners Chelsea managed to avoid needing even a single replay.

As I say, I see the problem as more systemic – and a quick look at another football tournament underway at the moment may help you understand why.

Suddenly, there is more attention is on the England under 19 team, who are playing in the UEFA Under 19 Championships, with the implication being that maybe there are signs of hope for the future – maybe a new Golden generation? A 3-2 win in their first game against Austria was reported on by the BBC, who said that “England’s performances have taken on an added importance since the senior side’s poor showing at the World Cup in South Africa, with many fans wondering where England’s future stars might come from.

A quick look at who was playing though reveals a story that is somewhat symptomatic of the problems caused by the way clubs use their money. Of the 14 players on duty for England, as listed on UEFA’s site, 11 are on the books of Premier League sides. However, the total number of Premier League starts for those 11 players is a grand total of… wait for it…. 3. All of which belong to Frank Nouble of West Ham. Many of the others have spent time out on loan at clubs lower down, and Delfouneso of Aston Villa has been a playing sub 13 times, but all of them are at best on the fringes of their squads.

The thing is, the Premier League is not a good environment in terms of encouraging sides to bring through youngsters. That’s not true in every case, but for many clubs it seems that money spent on the academy is done without expecting much in the way of results – the pressure is such that it’s far better to bring in an overseas player with experience than to blood a youngster. It doesn’t have to be this way of course – it is ultimately up to the clubs to decide how to spend their money – but with the risks and rewards so great, the tendency seems to be to go for what appears to be a lower risk option.

The Under 19s may well be packed with talent, but if they are to become the backbone of the England Senior Team in the next few years that talent needs to develop and to do so they need to be playing regular Premier League Football. Sadly, I don’t see that happening, and in another four years, eight years, and beyond I can see England fans once more being disappointed, promises being made by the FA to change things, and the Premier League quietly ignoring it.