Last summer was certainly a cause for celebration after the England U20’s lifted the World Cup; the U19’s won the Euros, and the U21’s were semi-finalists also in the European Championships. For years, we have been told that English clubs have not produced enough home-grown players. But it is evidently not true. We have just had one of the most successful years for English youth players, yet the prospect of an England senior team getting to the final stages of a tournament still seems a very long way away.
We have, of course, been here before. Under Stuart Pearce’s management, the England U21’s got to the semi-finals of the Euros in 2007 and in 2009 were finalists. But what good came from the hard-work put into producing these young talents? The answer? Not much. Of the 2007 squad, only seven are now playing regular Premier League football. Amongst those seven are players such as Wayne Routledge, Ashley Young and Mark Noble. They are hardly world-beaters. The 2009 squad, who were finalists, tells a similar story. But, the German team which England lost to had Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng. All of whom have won World Cups and are currently playing the best teams in the world of football.
So, why have our players not gone on to have stellar careers? It has to be down to the vast amounts of money in the top division and the fact that the majority of Premier League clubs are foreign owned and managed. In Germany, Spain and Italy, the vast majority of top division teams are owned and managed by people from their own nations. So, in England, there is less of an appetite to develop the English national team because the clubs are run by people who have little or no affinity with the national squad. Also, the Premier League has instilled a culture and mentality of excessive spending and greed. Why would English clubs bother spending 5-10 years developing young players when they can buy a ready-made star for £30m and still have money to spare?
For many English clubs, the development of young players is viewed as a commercial enterprise, rather than a benefit to a first team squad. For instance, Premier League clubs will poach the best young stars from lower league teams for a couple of million pounds, loan them back out again, and when they are fully developed, will sell them on for a profit.
Of course, it would be deceiving to say that this is the case for every English club – it’s not. Southampton, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur, in particular, have put a lot of effort into developing players and also playing them in their squads. It comes as no surprise that Tottenham has had two of their best seasons in the last two years finishing 3rd in the 2015/16 season and 2nd last year. Everton, after implementing young English players, finished 7th last year, one of their best results for some years. This refutes the myth that young English players are not of the same standards as a £20m foreign transfer, they just need to be given a chance to prove themselves.
But more Premier League clubs need to take note, how many U21 players in 2007 and 2009 missed out on great careers because their parent clubs never gave them the chance to prove themselves and develop further? Premier League owners and managers need to put more effort into properly developing young English players, and playing them in their first team. It cannot be the case that it is not their responsibility. The fact that they are in charge of an English club should be enough. Do these owners not have a duty to their fans? It is not just owners and managers; however, it is also Richard Scudamore, who has a duty as Executive Chairman of the Premier League to oversee more English players being given game time.
We have a world-class crop of young English talent, many of whom could become world stars if they are given a chance in the Premier League. It is high time everybody took more responsibility of producing more English talent rather than passing the buck. Otherwise, it will be another decade of the England national team in the doldrums.
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