Mails: Young players only have themselves to blame…

Ian Watson

It’s international weekend so don’t pretend you’re too busy. Send us some mails:

Players have to help themselves
With the annual inquest into the playing time of young English players has anyone stopped to blame the players themselves?

The usual scapegoats are wheeled out every time this issue becomes the topic of the moment -blame the top clubs for buying proven foreign players or blame the managers for being so concerned for their own jobs that they are afraid to give young players a chance. I’ve even heard blame apportioned to the EU and their refusal to back 1990s Serie A style quotas on foreign players. Surely the players themselves need to take some heat on this.

Dom Solanke was the latest “won’t someone please think of the children” player held up as an example of what’s wrong with the Premier League and the need for instant success restricting the development of young players. As a Liverpool fan I got to see quite a bit of Solanke last year and at no stage did he look good enough. This season so far he’s not had a look in but given the strength of the Liverpool front 3 and the bench – is there a manager out there (Boothroyd and Southgate included) who can genuinely say that they would be including Solanke ahead of Firmino, Salah, Mane, Sturridge or Shaqiri?

Who is to blame for this? Solanke is to blame. Not for failing to immediately set the world on fire but for his own career choices. On deciding to leave Chelsea to seek first team regular football he decides to join one of the biggest clubs in the world? Was he not aware how all this works? Was there no agent or family member pointing out that his chances of getting regular minutes would greatly increase if he looked further down the league for his next career move? I have no idea who was interested in him when he left Chelsea but would he be getting more game time at a Southampton or a West Brom or a Swansea? If I’m him I’m looking at Never Scores Long and Never Fit Austin and thinking I’m in with a good chance of leading the line at Southampton.

Maybe he believes in his ability so much he believed he could break through at Liverpool but surely he must realise his chances were greater at a different and (pardon the patronising tone of this) smaller club. The same applies to players Chelsea regularly stock pile. RLC has chosen to keep signing contracts at that club despite knowing that it’s the Bermuda Triangle for young players. Fodden might be the 2nd coming but even the most fanatical of English city fans would be questioning Guardiola’s sanity if he was starting regularly with De Bruyne or Silva on the bench.

These players know the way the game is. They know the records these clubs have in bringing through young players. They know they’ll either get league cup minutes and a couple of substitute appearances throughout a season during the most crucial time of their footballing development and yet they insist on staying at these clubs instead of turning down those contracts and dropping down the league, joining a championship club or trying their luck abroad (although thankfully that last bit is changing). If they are as good as they’ve been led to believe they are they’ll end up back at those top 6 clubs (in the same way De Bruyne realised he wasn’t going to get a decent run at Chelsea so left for somewhere he would. If they’re signing these contracts with the thought that they’ll be dislodging a Salah or a Silva from the team they don’t really have the right to complain about their lot. And the next time Boothroyd, Southgate or the Daily Mail want to point fingers maybe it’s time they started pointing the finger of blame at the short sighted career choices these young players are making.
Dave (I’m Irish so don’t even have a dog in the fight on this one) Cork

It starts at grassroots
In yesterday’s edition of the mailbox, H, Isle of Man, called for a maximum of three English players for Premier League clubs, I couldn’t disagree anymore with the idea and honestly think it misses the mark of the real issue.

First let me say that I may be American, but England is my footballing nation, and when I say quality is an issue it’s certainly not looking down my nose at the Three Lions. I think the problem is twofold. First, English players don’t force themselves into the starting eleven of many teams because they’re simply not good enough. Second, the potential may be there but how do they break through.

There’s no simple answer to the first problem and I’m not able to answer thoroughly, but I can at least relate some problems we have with American youth getting into football. Myself for instance, my parents wouldn’t let me play American football because they were worried about head injuries (who knew they were fifteen years ahead of the curve), but the biggest issue is that youths who may love the game but are great athletes will go to sports like basket, American football, and even baseball because that’s where the real money is. One of the big efforts our FA have had is a grassroots effort to really get people into football at a young age, obviously the younger most people start the higher their ceiling is. I know I’ve heard about the English FA talking a big game about grassroots investment but I don’t know if they’ve followed through.

tl,dr for part one is more grassroots investment for better quality in the future.

The second problem (and the topic of H’s letter, which prompted me to write), is the idea of quotas or other things that will encourage the development and refinement of young English talent. Basically, the issue of English talent being not quite good enough is the reason that there aren’t more established English stars at Premier League clubs is that for the most part, the talent isn’t there. Think about it logically, if a club can use an academy player and a half not pay an enormous transfer fee, it’s a no brainier. In addition to the obvious financial incentive, a local boy made good will also speak to supporters who will be excited to see one of their own. The talent just isn’t there to do it

The companion problem is what about the players that do have the potential but can’t break in to get playing time. I think by a couple of different forces could enable these players to get the game time they need to develop. First, young players like Foden or Loftus Cheek need to understand that they don’t currently have the quality to break into their club sides and need to agitate to get a loan to call the game time they need. The second sort of pressure should come from the FA. They should say “look, we need Foden to get playing time, you need to loan him out”. They may be employees of their club but their club is part of the FA and they need to understand that is a win/win in terms of development for club and country.

Grassroots investment in English football is the cornerstone of a successful future. Players fighting for their playtime will ultimately get them to an environment where they can learn and develop
Paul S., LFC, Baltimore, MD, USA


Awful Azzurri
Just watching the Italy Poland game because the other half has left me to babysit.

I have never seen a weaker Italy side in my lifetime. Chelsea’s third choice right back. If he’s still there. And a jaded striker who wasn’t any good at Liverpool when anybody would have been an improvement. Jorginho had a stinker then scored the penalty, lucky bastard. Any team with a bit of pace would have torn Italy a new one. Poland had a raft of retirees since the world cup so that they’re even calling up Leeds players (Sorry Leeds fans, you’re not in the EPL yet). Italy should have walked this.

I thought I knew what it was like to suffer as an England fan. But four world cup wins and then reduced to this. I’ve heard the nation’s league was to stop teams like Holland and Italy from missing out on qualifying for major tournaments, not on this showing. Italy are about to disappear without trace. Lucky to get a point at home against an ordinary Poland. They only started to create things when Poland sat back for the last half hour.

Apparently Italy have some useful teenagers coming through. Wouldn’t it be refreshing and extremely weird to see a young Italy team. We can but hope but on tonight’s showing, we’re lucky they didn’t qualify for the world cup (Sweden were so much more fun and that’s saying something).

However let’s end on a positive.

Well done Poland. You had a game plan, stuck to it, did it well and made Italy look abysmal. Bad luck with the penalty.
Rob (I can’t even begin to explain Bernardeschi, what was that? It wasn’t an international footballer), Gravesend


Fixing the Nations League
Don’t get me wrong the tournament’s been an upgrade on some of the horrible friendlies we’ve had to endure in the past ,but I can’t get past the fact that the league has too few actual league matches and the system sometime feels like the evil spawn of the Europa and Belgian leagues.

My solution would be to have just two groups in each tier. In the top tier the top two play off in a final and take the trophy, bottom teams are relegated and are ineligible to get a play off place.
The 2nd to last in each of the top tier group’s plays a play off ,with the loser getting relegated.

The other levels would be promoted on a similar basis and I would keep the play off spots for the European championships with more more teams coming from the 2nd and 3rd tiers so no one would try and get relegated all the way to the 4th tier just to qualify.
Timi, MUFC


Gushing over Gomez
I’m really confused. Garth Crooks compared Joe Gomez to Moore and was (rightly) lambasted by F365 and other media outlets. Bug whenever they are writing an article about Joe Gomez’s rise, they all keep referencing that comparison, using it as a source of praise. Does that mean the comparison is now accepted as correct?
Azeez (Definitely not) Nigeria.