They're a team full of loan players and ageing has-beens...can Roberto Martinez do better than David Moyes in the long term? Plus, more on Man United and...
Moyes is lacking 'charismatic authority', Kieran Gibbs is defended, Chelsea's problems are examined and a dreadful chant attacked. It's a glorious mailbox...
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Somebody Do Some Maths Please
I don't have the time (or the intelligence!) to calculate this, but I am hoping one of your readers would be able to figure this out for me. With all the talk of Bale being the most expensive player ever, I was wondering whose transfer is actually valued the most, taking into account time value of money, inflation etc??
For example, I would assume the €75m that Real paid for Zidane in 2001 exceeds the value of what they paid for Bale today. Anyone out there want to give this a try for me?? Or have I got this all completely backwards?
Derek (Love the site lads, keep up the good work) Dublin
They Took Our Jobs
Whenever I hear ex-pros bang on about how young foreigners are stopping young England players from getting game time, I am always reminded of the brilliant South Park about 'migrants' from the future coming to the past to take their jobs. Their incessant bleating, whilst ignoring the real problems, is very reminiscent of this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80D7RRquPww
John Matrix, AFC
Don't Just Choose Biggest Club, Kids
Too many talented young players see the Premier League as the be all and end all when they are choosing an Academy. This means you get a long procession of good footballers who sign pro contracts at 16 but who are realistically three years away from a Premier League starting gig and so end up going on loan to lower-league clubs. These years are critical in a young player's development so it is vital that the Premier League club choose a destination for their starlet that isn't going to hinder them. Questions should always be asked such as 'Will the manager play him in the right role?' 'Will the team look after him and, by that, not just take him down Chaser's every Saturday night?' 'Will the club's coaches nurture his talent?' etc.
The idea of farming a player out just to get first-team experience is not good enough anymore. I believe there is also a snobbishness apparent as some youngsters believe that lower leagues are beneath them in some way and that they do not use the opportunity as well as they could.
Parents also have to be more proactive in the decisions regarding their child's development. If the lad has offers from multiple academies then it shouldn't be a case of just picking the one from the biggest club. This way there will be a wider pool of talent playing for more clubs which will make the England manager's job easier in the future.
Stuart (LTFC fan)
PL Clubs Must Be Doing Something Right
I have admitted several times recently on this website to having no interest in international football whatsoever so it is surprising me how many actual viewpoints I have on the subject. And surprisingly, here comes another one. Many people are asking why young, English players aren't plying their trade abroad as so many foreign players do here. But if these foreign players are flocking here to learn their trade, and learn it so good that our domestic sides can't get enough of them, surely we are doing something right and maybe young, English players are where they should be? Just a thought 'till the real football starts again.
Coaching Is The Problem
Having read recently various opinions on the state of the English team and as an Irishman being fully aware of the deficiencies of our own squad, I'm surprised and confused by the notion that simple numbers are the problem.
In Ireland, association football competes with our own national games as well as rugby for the attentions of young athletes. As such there isn't the investment in football coaching that you'd have in other countries. In England, where football is the national sport (obsession) numbers aren't the problem. If you took all the foreign players out of the league you'd simply be left with a league full of less than world-class quality players with the cream rising to the top as normal. You'd have a large number of average players to choose from.
What needs to change is coaching at under-age level. Kids need to be taught close control and passing in close quarters. The lack of these basic skills is the reason why teams like England and Ireland are often caught against semi-decent teams. The lack of control leads to a lack of composure. Obviously as I said, the cream will rise to the top. Certain players have abilities that make the successful despite lacking the skills of the likes of Xavi, Iniesta etc. Steven Gerrard has his phenomenal engine and athleticism, Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott have their pace (though describing them as elite may be pushing it) John Terry has physicality and a brilliant reading of the game. I'm sure you can think of other examples.
The fact that the majority of players are not being coached in a way that means they're not comfortable on the ball means you get a lack of confidence on the ball, no one making themselves available for a pass and a lot of kicking and chasing when they do get the ball. The mention above of Barca players does not mean I am championing that style of play. If players are coached to retain possession and use the ball well in tight spots they can fit into any system you like.
In short, increasing the number of English players in the league without focusing on quality will simply mean an increase in the number of players not good enough to pay for the national team.
When Mancienne Went Abroad...
There has been some letters published recently stating English kids should go abroad to improve their game and I wholeheartedly agree with this. However it must be said that if you do go abroad there is also a pretty high chance of you being forgotten by the national coaches.
My case in point would be Michael Mancienne, a youngster who was coming through at Chelsea having been on loan to many teams at Championship level, now whether he would have made it at the Bridge is irrelevant as he decided to take a chance and go and play in the Bundesliga with Hamburg.
This was a kid who played regularly at U21 level and even got in the full squad once so clearly had/has a decent amount of potential, now he hasn't been a roaring success at Hamburg but I bet not one England scout has been out there to see if he is currently a better bet than someone like Jack Rodwell who routinely sits on City's bench but still gets the odd call-up.
Whereas if the kids stay in England and play the odd decent game then they are called up straight away (see Ross Barkley).
Roy Hodgson has already stated he doesn't watch junior football so I also doubt he would look at a player who was playing for a team not on the immediate radar.
You Know What...England Aren't That Bad
I'm going to throw my oar in on those dastardly foreign types. I'll start out by saying that I couldn't agree more that our players should be looking to move abroad. We live in the EU these days, not Great Britain. There's nothing stopping you. Go and learn something!
However, the main thrust of my argument is around another less obvious effect that the influx of foreign players has had. Now, consider your average English football fan. How would you summarise him/her? A knuckle-dragging moron prone to racism and violence? I don't think so. In fact, it's not even a person who goes to watch football every week. Your average football fan is a reasonably well-off professional guy with a full Sky TV package. He believes everything that Gary Neville tells him. His own football playing experience amounts to playing five-a-side with the guys from work every few weeks. His over-arching trait though, is this: He's there to be entertained.
And he has been entertained over the course of the past 10-15 years. He's had the privilege of watching the likes of Cantona, Zola, Bergkamp, Henry...the list is pretty long. These are the guys he tunes in to watch. He doesn't watch to watch 22 James Milners. Why? Well, because he doesn't do much other than run around a lot and put in the odd decent cross. He's more interested in doing things like tracking back and helping out his full-back, and no-one wants to watch that, do they?
The stereotypical English player (and let's be honest, Milner fits the bill so, so well) has taken a bit of a kicking over the last few years for not being a flair player akin to Zola et al. I think that's unfair. There are a multitude of foreign James Milners in the Premier League. Look at Ramires as an example. Okay, he's a better James Milner, but his style of play isn't so different (at least when Milner was playing CM for Villa). He's a workhorse (with bells), and when you're putting together a football team you need workhorses.
This anti-English malaise carries through into international week. Your average football fan gets ready for the weekend, but no! There's no soccer on the tele! What's going to entertain him now? He might have to go to a gastropub with his soulless girlfriend and that simply won't do. Horrible international football disturbing the regular season. He doesn't watch England because the internet has implied that England aren't very good and they have no entertaining players, so it must be true. You know, that Welbeck, he's not bad but he's no RVP, and everyone knows Becks should still be getting a game. Besides, the entire opposition team work on a farm.
It's time this person pulled his head out of his ass. England, in the grand scheme of things, are pretty good. The likes of Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole...they would walk into most teams in the world (or would have, at their peaks). What's more, they are capable of moments of magic. Look at Gerrard's goal against Moldova. If Pirlo hits that, your average fan would be drowning in a puddle of his own drool. It's about time we started appreciating what we have instead of lambasting the likes of Milner for not being Juan Mata. We might not win anything any time soon but to think we might isn't that ridiculous. Do people think that outside the UK, there are international games being played where everyone has a sublime first touch and dribbles around five players every time they get the ball? Do all the entertaining players go into hiding for a week? No, they go and play international football. If you're that desperate to watch these players, I'm sure you'll be able to find them playing on the TV somewhere!
On the other hand, you don't like international football. We get it. Just stop boring the rest of us with your 'opinion'. I'm sure when the World Cup rolls around you'll be doing something else.
Something To Be Said For Grafters
John Nicholson's latest article on Ricky Lambert leads me on to a point I have been trying to make for some time now: why players from Premier League strugglers and Champo regulars should be given far more consideration by Roy Hodgson.
These are the players who week in, week out ply their trade against 'well organised' teams, made up of the finest players that Georgia, Khazakstan and Finland have to offer, and who regularly play the kind of dull, uninspiring hoof-ball that England so often resort to.
While the stellar names certainly have qualities to offer, and you wouldn't drop Gerrard in favour of Darren Pratley, we simply don't get the best out of many of our players at international level - and I think it's because their own teams are geared up to play to bring out their qualities, and often to cover or mask their failings.
Rickie Lambert is the perfect illustration of why a player who has a proven track record at a club which (although based on a passing football philosophy) is hardly Barcelona can still offer England something on the international stage.
Players who are used to being on the receiving end should adapt better to England's regular humiliation against the international elite than players who are big fish at the biggest of fish.
Chris (Spam Hater), Manc
Maybe There Are Players Not Getting Chance
Having read the numerous mails regarding the deficit of English talent in the Premier League, I can't help but notice that the responses seem to broadly fall into two camps, either (1) we need a quota or (2) improve coaching/go abroad. Now, if I had to choose, I would probably favour option 2, as option 1 seems too simplistic. However, most in this camp seem to neglect the fact that something may actively need to be done to promote English talent within the Premier League. Yes, people appreciate it from around the globe, but it's played in England, the rights are held in England and its perverse to say that the top division in England should have no interest at all in the England national team.
The two examples that spring to mind are Daniel Sturridge and everyone's favourite beetroot bottler Rickie Lambert. While you can believe that they would have made it to the top anyway, that can't be said with any certainty. Sturridge didn't get a look-in at Chelsea and could easily have stayed and stagnated, yet he moves to Liverpool and not only gets goals galore but demonstrates excellent all-round ability. All this while Torres and Ba are racking up the appearances and the missing of sitters for Chelsea. Then there's good old Rickie, if Southampton hadn't got promoted, would he still have found his way into the PL and the England team? Unless clubs were forced to consider English talent, I doubt it.
Now I'm no expert on European law, so there's no hare-brained 'oh, I know absolutely nothing about the law but pretty sure this should work' type solution but think that the general idea of quotas (of some sort) should be given due consideration. I would liken the objectives to that of the 'Rooney rule' (yes, I appreciate that there are a few differences...) the point being that there may genuinely be some excellent English players that just are not getting the opportunities higher up the chain. The improve coaching/go abroad mentality implies that they're just not good enough for the PL (which may be the case but how would we know?). We need to ensure that the next Sturridge or Lambert gets the opportunity to show they can cut it as soon as possible. For the benefit of the PL and the England team.
Lambert: Really Not That Good
Rickie Lambert isn't, contrary to an increasingly prevalent opinion, symbolic of a need for the England football to branch out. England aren't going to radically improve if they pick journeymen, honest pros, street footballers or any other concept du jour. Lambert's is a heartwarming story, and he seems a decent bloke, but two decent games against crap teams have been used by the Jeff Powell/Adrian Durham brigade to berate the perceived pampered rarification of Premiership players, and by the lower-league mafia as validation of their fetish for standing on decaying concrete terraces every weekend as the wind blow and rain pours.
If a player floats around the lower echelons of the lower leagues until his early 30s, despite the appetite for physically imposing targetmen amongst the Premiership's strugglers, and despite scoring heavily, there's probably a reason for it. It isn't discrimination against earthy, working-class Rickie and his scouse accent, it's the fact he just isn't very good. He's had one decent season in the PL, and scored relatively heavily against the top six, but that's as much a result of novelty as quality.
Lambert, thus far, has scored against Scotland (and missed a sitter), and scored and played relatively well against the fearsome Moldova. Neither are noted for their defensive qualities, pressing or retention of possession.
Undoubtedly, there are players who benefit from loans, or starting their careers, at smaller clubs. Notwithstanding exceptional young players like Scholes, Gerrard and Rooney, most England players have at least one formative loan spell, and Nick Powell and Wilfried Zaha are exceptional talents at United. But statistically, players who spend most of their careers playing in League One of the Championship are likely to be League One or Championship quality.
When Barry Almost Met Emily
Out of all the billions of people that Barry (nothing to do with the fact she wouldn't touch me at all) J, Leixlip wouldn't have a chance with, he goes and picks Emily Ratajkowski who actually spent a large amount of her childhood growing up in Bantry, Co. Cork!
Ross (plenty more fish Barry), Dublin
She's A Child!
I'd just like to thank Barry (nothing to do with the fact she wouldn't touch me at all) J, Leixlip for making me feel old. When he said to Google Emily Ratajkowski, I saw she was born in 1991 and felt like a dirty old man looking at her pictures!!
Hans (Irish Gooner in Cape Town)