With football fans’ attentions turning to the international action this week and, in a World Cup year, Roy Hodgson’s likely line-up for Brazil, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that England’s best club side contains barely anyone in the national team frame.
Manchester City added yet another trophy to their expanding cabinet at the weekend, bouncing back from a goal down to win 3-1 against a Sunderland side who showed grit and determination in an entertaining Capital One final.
The winning side consisted of great names like Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri, who will all feature strongly at this summer’s World Cup and who proved instrumental in City’s win at the weekend.
England fans will be concerned that not a single English player featured in the starting XI for City. In fact, only three English players made an appearance on the Blue’s bench.
Joe Hart, James Milner and Joleon Lescott were the only homegrown players on show for the 2011 FA Cup winners, whereas in comparison, Sunderland’s team featured a nucleus of English players with five on the pitch and a further player on the bench.
While not even on the same page with regards to wage and arguably ability, this didn’t stop the Black Cats from commanding the first 45 minutes and going into half-time a goal to the good.
It is a worrying trend that has recently surfaced more and more in the Premier League: clubs who have a vast vault of wealth prefer to sign established foreign names, as opposed to putting the time into nurturing homegrown talent.
This could be having a negative effect on the national side, as figures from Opta show that English representation has dropped to a record low this season – players from these shores have played just 32% of minutes in the Premier League so far.
In La Liga, the home of the reigning World Cup and European champions, Spanish players account for 61% of all minutes played while the figure stands at 48% in the Bundesliga, the home of the Champions League holders Bayern Munich.
Since the purchase of the club in 2008 by the Abu Dhabi United Group, only a handful of English players have been signed by Man City and very few have broken through into the first team.
For instance, Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair have struggled to get first team games and, in the case of the latter, have been loaned out.
Another English player recently shown the Etihad exit door for the season has been Gareth Barry, who is at Everton after fans criticised his City displays.
At the Toffees he has proved instrumental to their success this season and Everton are a club eager to give young future prospects a chance.
In part this is due to a lack of funds, meaning they can’t buy established names. But it’s also because the ethos of the club and manager Roberto Martinez is to give young talent the chance to flourish.
One such example is Ross Barkley, who has become one of the country’s finest talents and has been named in the England squad ahead of the friendly with Denmark tonight.
The lack of English players in last weekend’s final will do little to ease the concern Roy Hodgson is bound to have ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil as he looks to pick players based on current form.
Much has been made in recent years about the national side’s poor performances in tournaments with various suggestions as to why this might be.
The style of football, lack of coaches and high expectations have all been cited but perhaps the biggest problem is the fact that many of England’s future hopefuls are reduced to taking a seat on the sidelines.
Much is made about how the English Premier League is the best in the world because of the quality of football it produces, but also because it attracts some of the best foreign talent in the world.
Although many solutions have been offered to improve the situation, such as homegrown player quotas, there is going to be no quick fix and it will likely be some time before England can celebrate another World Cup victory. There’s only so long we can keep referring to the 1966 success after all.
Image courtesy of Manchester City FC via YouTube, with thanks.