Of all the reasons given for the perennial struggle of the English national football team perhaps the most frequent is the lack of players who start for the top sides in the English Premier League.
Yesterday this was particularly apparent, as Chelsea and Manchester City took to the pitch for their FA Cup semi-final with only three English players starting between them, with the late introduction of Joleon Lescott adding another.
The financial success of the Premier League has made it easier for teams to snap up some of the best players from around the world, and looking at the team's yesterday, the benefits of this are clear. Chelsea and Manchester City's attacks were laden with top class players like Juan Mata and Yaya Toure, and if the games are enjoyable to watch, does it matter where the players on the pitch come from?
For all the globalisation of football, most people would probably agree that is still does, but how can the situation be changed. Even at a youth level, many Premier League teams bring in talent from abroad, and the players in those academies are finding it increasingly hard to then step up to the senior side.
Chelsea and Manchester City typify this problem, as even as they invest huge amounts in their youth set up, they continue to sign players for their senior side rather than give their youngsters a chance. The fact that the top English players are generally substantially overpriced means that they go abroad to do this.
There is no shortage of talent at youth level in England, with the NextGen tournament demonstrating this clearly as Premier League sides dominated their European counterparts to produce three semi-finalists and an all English final.
Getting those players into senior sides is the issue, and at the top clubs, they are always likely to be behind expensively acquired imports in the pecking order. Watching stars like Mata and Aguero is always going to be exciting, but a few more home grown heroes at the biggest clubs is always a worthy target, and addressing the route from youth academy to first team should be a priority.
image: © mafue