Why why why?
The football media loves a theme. Especially when that theme comes in the form of a hand-wringing question for which the answer is largely that the bloody foreigns are at fault.
When Harry Kane finally emerged from his cocoon of mediocrity to become an excellent striker, the question was ‘why are clubs not being more patient with homegrown players?’ (because of the foreigns). When young English players sign for and then fail at big Premier League clubs, the question is ‘why are clubs not being more patient with English signings?’ (because of the foreigns). When somebody notices that rather a lot of players are out on loan, everybody throws their hands in the air and asks ‘why are clubs stockpiling players?’ (because of the foreigns?).
Quite how clubs are supposed to be patient with players and yet not stockpile them is a mystery never addressed by those warming to this week’s particular theme.
Now, thanks to Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli, it’s all about the swathes of wonderful, Premier League-standard players in lower-league and non-league football who have somehow slipped through the cracks. A handful have emerged so there must be more, right?
The Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel never knowingly shuns a topic that could end with a finger pointed at the foreigns but he chooses a rather unusual starting place: Conor McLaughlin.
Now unless you are from Northern Ireland, you have probably never heard of Conor McLaughlin. We would wager that Samuel had not heard of Conor McLaughlin either, right up to the minute he Googled Fleetwood Town’s squad and got all giddy when he found an international bound for Euro 2016 in their ranks.
‘Conor McLaughlin may well be useless,’ begins Samuel, which you have to agree is a strong start.
‘Yet, plenty of rather good judges say McLaughlin isn’t useless at all. He’s quick and intelligent, a tidy passer, delivers a mean cross on the overlap and holds his own as first choice for Northern Ireland.’
You can guess where Samuel is going here. Premier League clubs are buying up foreigns from hither and thither but ‘nobody comes calling for McLaughlin. It is as if Fleetwood Town are unworthy, as if it is beneath the new masters of recruitment to consider a player who does not come with an exotic back story.’ Don’t they know he ‘isn’t useless at all’? Which is of course where the bar lies for Premier League defenders.
His argument falls down in roughly 427 places – with the idea that scouts from Premier League clubs do not watch Fleetwood (they will), with the notion that said clubs stubbornly eschew talent purely on geography (they don’t), for starters – but Mediawatch cannot help thinking that if McLaughlin is indeed first choice for Northern Ireland and is absolutely brilliant, he would have been spotted by somebody in one of several high-profile matches he has played for his country.
There would be no need for a ‘scouting mission to the backwaters of the Lancashire coast’; they could just turn on Sky Sports.
McLaughlin > Janmaat
Martin Samuel’s next task was of course to find a right-back who had a difficult weekend. Step forward Daryl Janmaat.
‘Does anyone think McLaughlin would do a worse job?’ asks Samuel. Mediawatch doesn’t know because we have never seen him play; he may well be useless.
This is possibly Mediawatch’s favourite part of a quite preposterous piece:
‘Yet Janmaat has interesting names on his c.v. like Den Haag and Feyenoord, so he gets bought for £5m, because that’s the going rate. And he’s a Dutch international, of course — having featured twice in a recent campaign that ended with Holland failing to qualify for the European Championship, having finished fourth in a group from which the Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey progressed.’
Not mentioned by Samuel: Janmaat also reached the World Cup semi-finals with Holland in 2014. Oh and he has just been named North East Football Writers’ player of the year. Would any of those writers swap him for Conor McLaughlin? We suspect not.
One more thing before we leave Samuel.
He writes: ‘When Aston Villa captain Micah Richards spoke of his frustration at what now appears a doomed season – no team with five points from 14 games have avoided relegation in the Premier League era – much of his anger was aimed at team-mates who seemingly didn’t care. But why would they? They have been imported, and are passing through. Villa’s recruitment policy is a trading arrangement, with little commitment from either side.’
Is he saying that players bought from the lower leagues would do a better job? Does that include Micah Richards himself? After all, he was brought in from the unfashionable backwaters of Manchester.
It’s at this point that we feel inclined to provide a list of some of the players bought by Aston Villa under Paul Lambert in the summer of 2012:
Matthew Lowton (from League One Sheffield United).
Joe Bennett (from Championship Middlesbrough).
Ashley Westwood (from League One Crewe)
Jordan Bowery (from League Two Chesterfield).
Also bought that summer: The ‘imported and passing through’ Christian Benteke. But did he ‘care’ as much as the English Joe Bennett?
Oh and who beat Aston Villa on Saturday? Watford’s band of ‘imported and passing through’ foreigns, that’s who.
The last bit, we promise
‘Few of the signings at Villa or Newcastle believe they will be experiencing life in the Championship next season, just as Dame N’Doye and Nikica Jelavic did not hang around at Hull’ – Martin Samuel.
Whereas Robbie Brady and James Chester – brave boys from these islands – are of course still there.
We implore you to simply read the words of Tim Sherwood and enjoy without prejudice but we cannot risk you missing this nugget:
“The new guys don’t want to go Fleetwood Town. They might not even get a cup of tea.”
Oh balls. We can’t leave it there.
“Clubs are not sending scouts out as much to these lower leagues,” Sherwood told the Daily Telegraph.
“Years ago they found Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand and Stuart Pearce in non-league. You hear people say now they will never be found again. Vardy is proving they can. In the Football League, Callum Wilson has proved they can. John Stones has proved they can.”
So clubs don’t scout in the lower leagues. Except when they do. Thanks for that.
Garth Crooks has massively let us down by picking players in their actual position for his BBC team of the week.
We liked this though: ‘Surely the time has come for the United fans to petition the club and demand that Sir Alex Ferguson comes out of retirement and rescues us all from this complete and utter drudgery.’
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a man billed as a ‘football analyst’.
Five ridiculous headlines from far more successful websites
* ‘Stats: Man United reject proving he could’ve been LvG’s Vardy, he’s smashing records in Europe – Metro.
It’s Javier Hernandez. And what record has he ‘smashed’? ‘He has overtaken Real Madrid legend Hugo Sanchez’s record for Mexicans in European football,’ apparently. It’s the one that everybody wants.
* ‘Man United chief scout watches next Anthony Martial in action – report’ – Metro.
And what makes Breel Embolo the ‘next Anthony Martial’? ‘He could prove another masterstroke signing,’ it says here. Which makes him exactly like Anthony Martial.
* ‘Norwich defender apologises to Piers Morgan after Alexis Sanchez shove’ – Daily Star.
* ‘Hollywood writer Adrian Butchart in talks to make film about Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy – report’ – Metro.
Robert Pattinson, in case you were wondering. Stop laughing. And remember: Chat sh*t; get banged.
* ‘Beach babe: Balotelli’s ex gets wet and shows off her peachy behind’ – Daily Star.
To be fair, it is indeed ‘peachy’.
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Liew responds to Jamie Vardy apologists
Daniel Taylor on the Boleyn Ground
100 best players in the world thanks to FourFourTwo. No sign of Conor McLaughlin, bizarrely.
Thanks to today’s Mediawatch spotter Michael McCollum. If you spot anything that belongs on this page, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, putting ‘Mediawatch’ in the subject field.