Mails: Money, not foreigners, ruined England’s team

Date published: Friday 17th November 2017 9:39

Keep those Mails coming to…


Eloquent responses to the ‘if you’re good enough’ argument
Steve Chicken in his column and Matt Pitt in his mail have both argued that “If they’re good enough, they will play.”

Let’s start with a couple of points first.

1) Matt names The Netherlands and Belgium as examples of leagues full of foreign players, as if this an argument in favour of what he is saying. Belgium right now has some of the best players in world football and the Dutch have produced some of the greatest players ever to play the game. Surely these are arguments for MORE domestic players in our own game? Comparing Scotland and Nigeria to England is clearly nonsense, due to a) population and b) economy. (Also, the quality of player in Scotland has improved considerably since 10 years ago when there were more foreign players in the league).

2) The argument that England were still rubbish 20 years ago. True, but irrelevant. The comparison to make is between what other counties are doing now, not what England were doing 20 years ago.

Onto the main crux of the argument. “If they’re good enough, they will play”. While this may be true, to a point, it completely overlooks the reality of how players develop. I work in education and improving in any area of learning is the same, be it academic, music or sport. There are many factors that affect how students learn but amongst the most powerful are learning from others, being allowed to make mistakes and feedback.

This all translates into football. Players get better by playing. They get better by playing with better players and they get better by playing against better players. They also get better by making mistakes, getting feedback and being allowed time to improve.

It it therefore just a statement of fact, not opinion, that players will improve more quickly if they are playing games in the top flight, with good players, from a young age. If they have time to develop, make mistakes, get feedback and improve they will become better players. Right now, for many, they are not getting that chance.

The “good enough, they will play” argument is appealing, but my question would be how do they get good enough? How do you become good enough to play for a top Premier League team without experiencing the Premier League first? One or two outliers csan maybe do it, but for the majority, it isn’t possible.

We learn best by doing what we can’t quite do, not what we already can. Maybe 5% of 18 year olds are ready to play in the Premier League but 15% are nearly ready. Give that other 10% a chance and they will improve far more rapidly than they will do spending time in the reserves.

The facts back this up in a way that is unarguable. Look down the England World Cup Ladder. How many players came through the academies of England’s top clubs? Spurs aside, the rest of the elite Premier League clubs have been extremely poor at developing top talent because they aren’t willing to give them game time. Have Southampton produced more good players than Man United because they just had better youngsters? Or might it be because they actually gave their youngsters some game time?

Look at someone like Ben Woodburn (not English I know) for Liverpool. He’s already starred for Wales, yet can’t get a game at Anfield. Can anyone seriously argue, he wouldn’t be improving more if he was getting to play top flight football? It’s a no brainer.

Right now, the best route for players seems to be: Start in Championship, or low level Premier League team, develop there, move to elite club. Now, that will work to a point, but all those talented World Cup winning youngsters at the academies of City, Chelsea, United and Liverpool must be thinking what do I do now? How do they get the opportunity to develop?

Players get better by playing. If there isn’t a change somewhere, England is going to miss out on a huge amount of talent who may never develop to reach their full potential.
Mike, LFC, Dubai


Mr Chicken does an admirable job of debunking the myth that foreign players in the premier league are hindering the development of their domestic counterparts, but ultimately – in saying “they will play” – arrives at the wrong conclusion.

There are a couple of questions here:
(1) is playing time at the highest level a necessary component in developing young players? and
(2) is the Premier League a competition that allows for this?

(1) I think is fairly widely agreed as a yes – the best (although not bulletproof) source being the the following paper from the CIES Football Observatory: – as well as more common sense considerations such as the obvious increase in intensity, standards and motivation, and the basic logic of the best way to become a top flight player is to start being a top flight player, identify your deficiencies, and improve them.

(2) is increasingly a “no” – the problem is why. The % of foreign players is a distraction and not the root cause. Surely the more diverse and talented the player pool in a division, the better the experience for any young player. John Stones is now tasked with defending Aguero, De Bruyne, Sane, Jesus and a bevy of Silvas every day in training. First team forward players from Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Brazil, Portugal and Spain. The goal, you assume, is to have John Stones defending not simply that calibre of player at the World Cup – but possibly those exact players. This is hardly a regrettable situation in which to find your first choice centre-back.

The reason that “if they’re good enough, they’ll play” doesn’t hold is that as the monetary stakes skyrocket in the Premier League, in accordance with desperation, short-termism and managerial insecurity, down goes the comfort with any sort of risk or investment that won’t return an immediate payoff. That is by definition what it is to promote an academy player. A risk, an investment, a plan for the future. And not only does that diminish – so too does the actual need to develop young players. Traditionally developing a core of homegrown players was a necessity, because – otherwise – who’s going to play for you? You can’t just go out there and buy a full matchday 18. Who’s got the money for that? Well, as it turns out in today’s Premier League, everyone.

So we find this strangely modern disconnect, where monstrously wealthy clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, who – in their desperation to conquer – invest so lavishly in academy facilities and scouting networks (perhaps in the event producing and training a quality of academy player higher than at any time in the past) end up hitting a brickwall when it comes to a laying a pathway into the first team.

If I were to predict the next phase of the superclub, I would suspect it to be the full separation of the academy, as a distinct entity to be more effectively monetized – the production of players for the first team being only an occasional bonus, and not its purpose.

TL;DR: It’s money that’s restricting youth opportunities, not foreign talent.
Errol Thomas, LFC, County Carlow


It’s Big Weekend’s Little Brother
West Bromwich Albion-Chelsea.
This fixture has produced some memorable moments in recent years: Michy Batshuayi’s title-winning goal, John Terry’s last-man red card, Cesc Fabregas’ assault-with-a-ball on Chris Brunt. It’s never easy here for Chelsea, and despite West Brom’s poor form, doesn’t figure to be this time either. Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger logged their share of minutes during the international break, so the back line should be Cahill-David Luiz-Azpilicueta.

On the other side, Gareth McAuley might need a rest after his exertions for Northern Ireland, but Tony Pulis may still play a five-man back line. Grzegorz Krychowiak is the man to watch for West Brom: he’s a potential two-way player who tends to roam, which could either be a plus or a minus. Tiemoué Bakayoko is the very definition of a rough diamond, and his efforts against West Brom’s midfield should be worth watching as well.
Stat: Chelsea are behind last year’s full-season numbers in shots per game (13.7/15.3), shots per game allowed (11.9/8.5), possession percentage (52.1/54.0), and pass completion percentage (82.2/83.9).

Bournemouth-Huddersfield Town.
This one should be fascinating, with two high-octane sides who love to attack on the wings. Although Bournemouth are seven places below Huddersfield, GF/GA are very close: 7/13 to 8/14. The big question is whether Aaron Mooy, who puts the T in Terriers (yes, I realize that doesn’t work) will be ready to play after coming back from the Antipodes on Thursday. Christopher Schindler is suspended, but Bournemouth have injury problems in attack, with Josh King, Benik Afobé, and Junior Stanislas all possibly unavailable.

Can Huddersfield’s press discomfit the generally calm Andrew Surman? Steve Cook has been off form lately, but can Laurent Depoître or Steve Mounié take advantage? The most interesting matchup will be on the left of Bournemouth’s attack, as Marc Pugh (probably) and Charlie Daniels try to put pressure on Tommy Smith.
Stat: Bournemouth are last in tackles, at 12.8 per game. Huddersfield are first, at 20.9.

Brighton & Hove Albion-Stoke City.
On the surface this one looks like a slow burner, but Mark Hughes, fundamentally a conservative manager, might well play aggressively in an away match where three points are possible. Brighton, eighth in the table, just keep on keeping on, and figure to stay with their calm, controlled approach. Jack Butland is out, but to be honest hasn’t been at his best so far, and Lee Grant was superb last year during Butland’s long injury spell.

The jury is still out on born winger Max Choupo-Moting as a central striker, but that looks like the plan at least for now. Will Xherdan Shaqiri be at his best after two intense qualifiers? For Brighton, the unstoppable Glenn Murray has scored more than 25% of his Premier League career goals in the last three matches. Davy Pröpper is the only true PFM in the league, and after a slow start has settled comfortably into central midfield.
Stat: Xherdan Shaqiri has four assists, all from corners.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA


Yes, Barkley has cocked it
To answer Tim Colyer’s question about “Has Barkley cocked it up?” Yes, yes he has.

I think it’s obvious his best option is to get healthy, get his head down, and start playing football for Everton again. Our performances this season show us crying out for a player like him who could spark our anemic offense.

But he’s got to convince Unsworth first and then he’s got to convince a section of the fan base as well that he truly wants to play for us because he’s out of options. If there was ever an “Exhibit A” of a player being so poorly advised by his agent, this is it.
TX Bill (He doesn’t have Koeman around anymore to blame either) EFC


On the English players in MLS
Not sure if anyone will find this interesting, but there was actually a load of Brits featuring in the MLS this season. Proof that some do go abroad for kicks.

Jack Barmby (CAM, Portland Timbers) – former Hull City and Manchester United youth player. Split time between Timbers senior team (10 apps) and reserves.

Ashley Cole (RB, LA Galaxy) – formerly of Arsenal and Chelsea. Endured the worst season in Galaxy history, finishing dead bottom of the Western conference.

Jack Elliot (CB, Philadelphia Union) – Lanky center-back, made 30 appearances for a mediocre Union team.

Jack Harrison (RW, NYCFC) – Breakout season for the former Manchester United academy player. Helped NYCFC to a top-3 finish in the East, pitching in 10 goals. Known for quickness and dribbling. Made debut with the England U-21s.

Harrison Heath (CM, Atlanta United) – made one appearance, spent time on various loans. Son of Adrian Heath.

Seb Hines (CB, Orlando City) – Former Boro stalwart, rather infamous for perhaps being the slowest player in MLS. A YouTube sensation for his tendency to lose footraces on balls over the top.

Jack Holland (MF, Houston Dynamo) – Brummie, made 5 appearances.

Tyrone Mears (RB, Atlanta United) – Loads of former clubs, racked up most of his appearances in English football with Preston and Burnley. Started the season in the first XI but displaced by Anton Walkes (more on him below).

Luke Mulholland (MF, RSL) – A regular for Salt Lake over the last few seasons. A tumultuous 2017 campaign, narrowly missed the playoffs on the final day.

Liam Ridgewell (CB, Portland Timbers) – Ex long time Birmingham player now captains the Timbers, a perennial playoff team. Rumoured to be a target for Villa among other Championship teams looking for depth in defense.

Jay Simpson (FW, Philadelphia Union) – Former Arsenal and Norwich youth product; played a few years in Hull City’s senior team. Made 22 appearances this season for Philly.

Rob Vincent (MF, DC United) – Everton youth player. In and out of a poor DC United team.

Anton Walkes (CB, Atlanta United on loan from Tottenham) – A natural CB, filled in at right and left back and cemented a role as the starting RB midway through the season. Maintained good performances through the playoffs, which resulted in a disappointing first-round shootout loss. Chipped in with the odd goal as well.

Charlie Ward (MD, Houston Dynamo) – Villa and Stoke youth product. Made 1 appearance.

Bradley Wright-Phillips (ST, NY Red Bulls) – Former City and Southampton striker continues to bang in the goals for Red Bulls. Along with Robbie Keane, only players to score 15+ goals in 4 consecutive seasons.
John C


Fair points on England’s tactics
There’s been a bit of a debate about Pullisball, bus parking, etc, etc for our new, young, and exciting England team to stop us getting hammered at the World Cup.

A few notes.

To get from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-3 you remove the No.10 and replace him with a central defender. To get from a 3-4-3 to 3-5-2 (England’s structure?) you remove a wide attacker and add a central midfielder.

To make these ever more defensive shapes work from an attacking point of view, you need as a minimum serious wing backs (check – Rose and Walker), and a mobile midfield (hmm). Actually what you need to be successful and actually score goals is an incisive passer (Eriksen, Ozil, Fabregas, KDB) and/or aggressive dribblers who can break the line (Hazard, Sane, Sterling).

England don’t have an incisive passer, but do potentially have a mobile midfield (Loftus Cheek in the Lampard role, plus Lallana?), and at least one dribbler (Sterling).

Lumping it long down the channels for Alli and Kane to chase seems like a poor Plan A (especially without a passer), and the Vardy Plan B (lump it down the channels for Vardy to chase) works best when there is a threat of a Mahrez alternative that stops the defence from dropping too soon.

Alternatively we can play with 5 at the back shielded by two large defensive midfielders, and hope we don’t draw Iceland.
Matthew (ITFC)


Some love for Silly Billy Philly
Phil Neville should have gone to World Cup 2010 and maybe to Euro 2012. I’m not a fan of either of the teams he played for. He was unfashionable, utility players are, but he was a good player, a true leader. Considering how a tournament squad is comprised, doesn’t taking a quality, experienced player than can play in a few positions as a squad player to have an influence and do a decent job on the pitch if required make a lot of sense?

Always pleased to see him at #50. Just for a long time, he should have been a lot higher.


A video and a game
Have you seen the video of Algerian coach Rabah Madjer absolutely losing his shiznits at a journalist in a press conference after they beat the Central African Republic (always the best answer on Pointless)?

Just check out Riyad Mahrez. I haven’t seen a man look that awkward since Peep Show finished.

Imagine Gareth Southgate doing a personality 180 and calling out Neil Custis or Neil Ashton for their drivel. He could lose a qualifier to San Marino and I’d still want him to have the job for life.

Oh and a new fun game for you all, go on Facebook, like the BBC Sport page and wait for a story on International Football. It doesn’t matter what team it’s about. See how far down the comments you can go before someone makes a comment about how rubbish England are. I’ve managed 4 posts, and that was on an article about Peru.
Terry Cheeseman, Funbridge Smells.


A reminder: Go buy this book
My two copies of Portrait of an Icon arrived in the post yesterday and I’d like to join the others who bought a copy in saying a huge well done!

Superb publication and I hope the weeks leading up to Christmas result in many more sales for a great cause.


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