There was very little at the World Cup to encourage England fans ahead of future international tournaments. In fact, it’s probably not too impolite and definitely not inaccurate to say that England’s three performances were… well… a bit crap. And, in response, PFA chief Gordon Taylor has proposed that all Premier League squads should be required to have three home-grown players in their starting 11.
Enter stage left the villains of the piece: Manchester City.
Here’s the catch 22 situation that’s facing the Blues and has been facing them for some time. The club, manager Manuel Pellegrini, owner Sheikh Mansour, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chief executive Ferran Sorriano, or director of football Txiki Bergiristain have absolutely no moral obligation to develop talent for the English national team. None. Zilch. Zip. The thin end of knob all. Zero.
The only thing that they care about – and the only thing they should care about – is the future of Manchester City.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the club cast as the bad guys once more for a summer spending spree that seems likely the English players incoming will be far fewer than those outgoing: It’s likely to be none arriving, while Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry and Jack Rodwell are confirmed departures, while Scott Sinclair looks likely to leave and Micah Richards may also be out the door should the right offer come along.
That’s not forgetting James Milner has agreed to stay on the principle he doesn’t play wide left as often as he has done before.
Meanwhile, the Blues have added two Frenchmen in Bacary Sagna and Eliaquim Mangala, a Brazilian in the shape of Fernando, and Argentineans in Bruno Zuculini and Willy Caballero. No wonder the England team is pants if the top clubs don’t give English talent a chance, eh?
The thing is, nobody cared when City fielded a non-English XI when Kevin Keegan was the manager. The fact that the Blues were made up of a distinctly average bunch of foreigners meant nothing more than a tut towards Maine Road, but now those overseas players are pretty good it’s part of the reason England haven’t won a World Cup in 48 years.
Think how bad the national team was when the likes of David Sommeil, Lucien Mettomo and Antoine Sibierski were blocking the English players’ route to the City first team.
The trouble is that the English players on the whole just aren’t good enough. That Joe Hart is the only one who has been a first team regular for the Champions says a lot – City got better value for their money elsewhere on the other ten positions on the field. It’s difficult to say that there isn’t a premium on top of English players, as Manchester United shell out £30m for Luke Shaw and Liverpool complete a £25m deal for Adam Lallana.
City scooped both Yaya Toure and David Silva – widely regarded as two of the best (if not the two best) central midfielders in the Premier League – for £24m and £25m respectively. Lallana had a good season and would probably have been a welcome addition to Pellegrini’s squad, but he would represent far less value for money than others on City’s radar.
On top of that, when the Blues have English talent in the squad, they’ve either spent far too much time injured (Rodwell, Richards) or they’ve been too inconsistent or not up to the ability levels to hold down a regular first team berth (Milner, Sinclair). Milner’s a prime example: he has a habit of coming off the bench to change a game and earning himself a start the following week, only to disappoint. Worse, his preferred position is central midfield, but he can’t get in there because of the talents of Toure and Fernandinho, meaning he’s only ever deployed on the wing.
I suspect nobody at City will care about being cast in a bad light when it comes to criticisms of not bolstering English talent. It would more than likely only ever be an issue for the club should plans come in to force teams to contain a set number of homegrown players – though, even then, the rules wouldn’t restrict foreign players, providing they’d come through an English academy.
That proposal, however, will simply add more of a premium on top of the homegrown stars and the slightly over-priced average footballer becomes extortionately over-priced. In a drought, the man with crates of water bottles holds the power and can charge whatever the hell he likes.
City’s pursuit of titles and trophies means they have sought out the best of the best. In reality, this isn’t a cause of the England team being poor but rather an effect – Pellegrini and the board are indiscriminate when it comes to nationality. They pick players for their ability, not where they’re from and England’s 2014 World Cup performance reflects the exact reason why only one of the squad was a first team regular at the Etihad: they’re not good enough.
Clearly, something needs to be done to try and improve England’s fortunes at international tournaments. However, the answer is not to fast-track English players to the Premier League by forcing all clubs to start them – all that will do is reduce the overall quality of the division, rather than the ability of the players.
Written by David Mooney