English youth players shouldn't be given an easy ride

Wembley England

Rather than being given token spots in Premier League teams, shouldn't the country's best prospects try and learn their trade abroad?

The failure of the England Under-21 squad at the European Championships this summer led to outgoing FA chairman David Bernstein stating that the Premier League lacked ‘Englishness’ and that this is what was hampering the national team's progress.

The theory goes that by bringing in a quota which would require all clubs in the Premier League to field a certain number of English-born players, either in the match day squad or in the first eleven, you are exposing those young players to a world class division in which they will benefit from playing with the best players and this will translate to their performances on the international stage. Perfect thinking.

But Bernstein has missed the reason why the Premier League gets the plaudits it does: because of its ruthlessness. The clubs are on the whole bursting with money, both from wealthy owners and a lucrative television deal, and they have their pick of the best players from all over the globe.

All these players then meet in the melting pot of the division and bring styles from their native countries and leagues, which come together to create a ruthless system which finds out which players and teams simply do not meet the grade.

If you brought in a rule which forced clubs to field players based on their passport rather than their ability then you would create a league which doesn't have the quality that Bernstein believes helps develops young players.

Also why should English players get an easy ride? Players such as Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and Ronaldo did not come through systems in which they were given an easy ride or a leg up by their national Football Association. The best players England produced in the past also did not come through a set up that favoured them, as players such as Joe Hart and Frank Lampard didn’t.

Soon to be former England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce stressed that there was no value in mollycoddling his players anymore so why should they return from the tournament and be told that in future they will play in their first team because of their nationality, rather than because they deserve to do so.

Young players need to shake off the affliction which the entire country’s footballing community suffers from; being little Englanders. There is not another team on Earth which has a squad comprised mostly of English players in the same way that English clubs do with European, African and South American players.

After every international tournament and Champions League, the knee-jerkers at the FA are quick to announce a scheme which will create a generation of youth players who will bathe in the latest favourable tactical thinking.

Wouldn't it be much more efficient to have a generation learning these styles first hand, all over Europe and the world? Wishful thinking.

image: © geetarchurchy

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