‘Leicester City sign Yohan Benalouane and N’Golo Kante’ is the headline I read. Immediately I think who are they, and does this sum up the state of British football these days? I’m not a Leicester fan but add to the list Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs and Shinji Okazaki and if I was a Foxes youth player chomping at the bit to break into the first team, I’d be a bit chewed off. Possibly enough to produce a racist sex tape and get myself released from contract. Maybe not…
I know this is the same scenario at many clubs up and down the country, mainly in the higher divisions. Cheap and reasonably good foreign players are available, and available for a lot less than any home-grown talent. But is this destroying our youngsters and national team?
Look back to ’66. Every player in our team was playing in an English team. Fast forward to Italia ’90. The same can be said for the squad then. Every player playing in England, other than a sprinkling playing for Rangers, when they weren’t a joke and Chris Waddle plying his trade for Marseille. Those two occasions are the best we’ve done on the world stage in the last 50 years. Is it the effect of having a massive influx of foreign players in our league that is causing us to falter on the international stage? Or is that just a poor excuse?
Foreign players are bought into every league in Europe. You can look at Serie A, the Bundesliga and La Liga and see players from all over the globe playing. But it hasn’t seemed to affect the German or Spanish national team. What are we doing wrong? Is it something engrained in us that we just can’t seem to perform on the biggest stages, or is it the players? Are they just not that bothered about representing their country anymore? Maybe it’s not the same honour as it was years ago. Successive governments seem to try and water down the importance of being English in my eyes, but that’s another discussion for another day.
The players from abroad, well the top ones that is, bring flair, skill, different cultures and languages. They are definitely a massive plus in the Premier League and the pulling power of our top division shows that it is THE BEST league in the world. No matter what anyone else says. These superstars wouldn’t come over here if it was cack. Yes there’s masses of money available but they must come over for the quality competition as well. Something that you could say is missing in these 3 or 4 team divisions in Spain, Germany or Scotland. Well, I say Scotland but it’s a push to think of 3 or 4 good teams over the border.
I do feel for the youngsters trying to break through. You train hard, sacrifice a massive part of your childhood, just to be shipped out, when a team feels like they’ve found a better option abroad. Or I suppose it could go the other way and you do get that chance in the first team. You make a few good appearances in the top division and then realise that you’re worth more than everyone else. You’re not going to be told what to do so you’ll get your snake of an agent to arrange a move to a team where nobody is sure where you’ll fit in. Sounds familiar.
What do we do about it? The F.A have realised there is a problem with our national team and are trying to do something about it. Quotas have been talked about, but now that everything is about money, I think the companies involved would have something to say if the big foreign names weren’t heading to our shores. B teams have been talked about as well, putting them at non-league level. Now this is where my team lies. Personally I don’t like it. Turning up to see my beloved playing Man City B team? Doesn’t ring right to me, although I understand it works on the continent. It could bring a few more through the door, not enough to make a difference though. I don’t know where the answer lies, but something needs to be done before the nation that created and nurtured the great game becomes obsolete on the world stage.
By Tom Deamer