English football is in a sorry state. Granted, the Premier League continues to thrive, but the quality of English players and the England national team is getting worse and worse with each passing year.
I genuinely believe that within the next 10 years, England could well find themselves on a par with the Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.
For some reason many people in England seemed to think that the success of English club sides would automatically translate into success for the national side. Thankfully, since the debacle of failing to qualify for Euro 2008, reality has started to sink in and people have begun to realise that English club sides succeed despite the presence of their English players and not because of them.
The popular view as to why decent young English talent isn’t coming through is that there are too many foreigners plying their trade in the Premier League. I do believe that this plays it’s part in the situation, but I think a lot more attention needs to be paid on the attitude, dedication and mind-set of these young English players.
The FA can spend as much money as they like in fancy training facilities, but until they can change the mind-set of the average English youngster, they have no hope at all in producing genuine football talent.
Football education needs to be coupled with academic education so that these youngsters actually grow into decent and educated human beings. Instead, they are forced to focus on their football only and given little incentive to pursue their other studies.
You’d have thought that with such an emphasis on football education that the English youngsters would be exceptionally gifted, and yet they aren’t. If you were to try and compare them to Dutch, German and Spanish youth players where academic schooling is given equal importance to football education, you’d quickly realise that there is actually very little scope for comparison.
A lack of interest in Youth tournaments in England also seems to have a detrimental effect on youngsters coming through in this country. When England were knocked out of the U20 World Cup a week or so ago, a lot of people may not even have been aware that the tournament was taking place, such was the lack of coverage it was given. The nation seem more content to discuss what z-list celebrities are wearing on their holidays than on how our young footballers are getting on in a major Youth tournament.
The FIFA U20 World Cup is an official FIFA tournament that has been graced in the past by talents such as Diego Maradaon, Lionel Messi, Zvonimir Boban and Dani Alves, and yet none of the major TV stations in the UK seemed to want to promote it, let alone broadcast it. If you are fortunate enough to have access to Eurosport then you may have been able to watch the matches.
It made me realise why young players seem so reluctant to turn out for the England U20s and U21s. They get absolutely no coverage. That in turn made me wonder why a lot of these youngsters are in the business in the first place. I’m not saying that this is true for all of the young English players, but I’d be confident in saying that the vast majority of young players have two things on their mind when they sign their first contract, fame and money. Of course, it goes without saying that they would love to be successful and win titles and trophies, but it appears to me that the thing that appeals most to a lot of these young players is how much money they make, how flash they can be with that money, and how often then can be seen out and about in trendy nightclubs where ladies of questionable repute can fawn over them.
On May 30th 2010, the England U17 side won the European U17 Championship, beating Spain 2-1 in the Final. At the time, the players were rightly lauded as the future of English football, and we were encouraged to believe that English football was in safe hands. It is still too early to write the players off, but many of the players who featured in that England squad were in the England squads which failed so miserably at the European U21 and World U20 Tournaments this summer.
When players of a certain age rest on their laurels having signed their first big contracts and begin to believe that they have already made it, is it any wonder that Premier League clubs seem to prefer importing foreign talent than giving English youth a chance?
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