The national team

All views in this article are purely the views of the author and are not the views of the club he is connected with. The author is asserting his right to speak on a personal basis only.

Those of you who know me will know one of my pet beefs is the apparent effect of the Premier League on the national team. Let’s face it; compared to the squad that went to Euro 96, the current squad isn’t a match for them. There’s no one that Roy Hodgson has that is the equal of Seaman, Pearce, Gascoigne and Shearer. Plus having the luxury of a player like David Platt ready to come off the bench is something Roy could only dream about. Is this just an example of the cyclical nature of quality in national squads or is there another, deeper reason?

Right from the start, the Premier League was hailed as the next big thing for the English game. Statements about how English players would improve so much when playing alongside their more technically gifted overseas brethren abounded and backed by the ever-increasing money from Sky, clubs responded by enticing more of the world’s finest to the English game.

Before too long, those clubs which spent heavily without necessarily gaining success soon found themselves in financial problems. The FA responded by introducing penalties for those clubs who played fast and loose with the regulations over administration and such like. However, this did nothing to address the real problem; the ever decreasing number of quality English-born players making it into the top flight clubs and actually starting games.

Clubs have become dependent on the overseas players that the Sky TV money allows them to bring in, leaving the young developing talent to drift into the Championship and not get the opportunities they might have once had. As a consequence, the talent pool available to successive England managers has shrunk alarmingly as the players are left to stagnate, the lower division not being sufficient to develop them enough. Yet the Premier league is touted as “The Best League in the World” to which I would disagree.

This is only part of the problem. The other is that the philosophy among managers and coaches appears to have been slowest to change. Given the rewards available for clubs in the Premier league, they daren’t bring in the few younger quality players that do make it, for fear of failure. Among a number of managers, a player who covers every blade of grass and works hard is more appreciated than a player who is technically better but doesn’t work as hard. This is wrong and we need to address this at grass roots levels; however this will take a long time to do.

Given this, I fear the national team will continue to be held hostage by the league clubs for years to come, and that the FA will struggle now to get their pre-eminence back as the Premier league clubs have had it their own way for too long. This league may have some of he best players in the world in it, but in terms of the English game as a whole, it has done the national team no favours and will continue to put its own blinkered self-interest first. The days of the England team making it to semifinals and even finals of international competitions have passed, unless all parties come together and work for the good of the game as a whole.

Don’t see THAT happening for a long time. Many disagree, and expect Greg Dyke’s plans to improve matters.  I seriously doubt it.


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