On Saturday we saw a rather lacklustre performance from the England team in an important Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland. Yes, admittedly we do still have some individual good players in the Premier League – but with many of them coming towards the end of their career, do with have a new breed of players that will do us proud?
I would like to think so – but they certainly must be given the opportunity to flourish. Exceptionally talented players like Jack Wilshere are also likely to make the breakthrough due to the quality they possess. But the top English Premier League players need to get the opportunity to play for the best teams. Some of our most talented players like Ashley Young, Gary Cahill and Phil Jones may need to move on in the summer to perform on a bigger stage with the best players.
We have seen foreign ownership and foreign management come in to the Premier League and build squads almost exclusively based on foreign players. That strategy is understandable for teams on a budget because in general better value is quoted for foreign players. However, does the Premier League big six (Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool) really have any excuse not to buy English? On top of the hugely lucrative TV deals they also enjoy significant commercial and match-day income. We already know about the fact that some Arsenal fans are getting turned off by the huge season ticket prices.
Yes, I understand that a lot is at stake for getting signings wrong and we would not want English players to be signed purely for the sake of signing English players. The process should be the same as any other signing – but we need to have the best English players playing for the biggest English clubs and playing in the Champions League.
At times prices will be high – but that is just the way of the world and the big clubs don’t really need to penny pinch, do they? Case in point was the signing of Andy Carroll in the January transfer window, now I think most people know that at the moment there is no way he is worth £35m. However, he is a talented young striker and if he scores anywhere near the amount of goals in the Premier League and for England that has been predicted, then Liverpool’s gamble will have paid off. In a similar way Manchester United probably overpaid when they signed Chris Smalling and Arsenal when they signed Theo Walcott. But that is just the way it is and the selling club are not keen to sell their best talent – so they are going to want compensation for all the years they have spent training and developing the player.
Premier League clubs could do a lot worse than having a little look at the Barcelona squad – who proved themselves to be the best European club side. Their squad though has a definitive Spanish core to it and features 12 Spaniards in their first-team alone. So it stands to reason that this is a reasonable model to follow, but in order to do that English sides must commit to buying English players and also developing and giving the best English players their chance in the first-team instead of foreign players. But with the financial fair play rules coming in soon a certain amount of this may need to happen anyway and if so much the better.
If we fast forward 10 years and looked through the top squads within the Premier League – wouldn’t it be fantastic if each squad featured at least 10 top quality English players. Liverpool may be best placed to make that dream a reality. With two men that were involved in the set-up at Barcelona in Jose Segura and Rodolfo Borrell they should develop it in the right way. Both in terms of developing youth players as they have done with Jay Spearing and Martin Kelly; but also with the signing of the best English talent – something they started with the capture of Andy Carroll and will hopefully continue during the summer. And if they do it that way and other clubs follow so much the better.