The issue of ‘homegrown talent’ in the Premier League has been well documented over recent years with FA Chairman Greg Dyke even suggesting a ‘B league’ to increase the amount of English talent coming through on the development conveyor belt.
This topic was reignited this week when David Moyes commented on the situation in Spain compared to the English layout.
Moyes has only been at Real Sociedad since November last year but the ex-Manchester United manager has already noticed a difference in class thanks to the B team set up in Spain.
The Scot said: “I would say the B-team is better than the average reserve team games you have back home. The players come into the first-team squad from the B team and they are more developed and are slightly older around 22.
“Our boys here are playing in the third division. The boys are playing against a men’s team and it helps them develop."
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"It’s something in the long term that could help young players develop, albeit I’m a supporter of the lower leagues who has played and managed clubs in them.”
Men against boys
In terms of under-21 football in England, the younger stars face off against each other with the occasional first-team player making the odd appearance if they are returning from injury. By Moyes’ thoughts on the Spanish set up, they would benefit more from facing off against men.
We all know the adult game is completely different to the youth system. You have to know how to look after yourself in adult football which as a result toughens up the younger players with the theory being it helps their progression.
Understandably the adult game does not suit all players and the physicality can hinder some and even result in injury on rare occasion for others.
Record low percentage
According to CIES Football Observatory in a study conducted at the start of the 2014-15 Premier League season, a record-low 13.9 percent of top flight professionals were homegrown - a shockingly low number.
The numbers compared to other leagues are embarrassing. France’s Ligue 1 (24.6 percent), Spain’s La Liga (22.4 percent) and Germany’s Bundesliga (16.4 percent) all tower above the English number.
UEFA define a ‘homegrown player’ as: “a first-team player who trained for at least three years with his club between the ages of 15 and 21. Players were counted if they have either featured in a league match this season, or been an unused substitute if they played a senior game in each of the last two seasons.”
Speaking to the BBC in 2013, Dyke said: “In the 1992-93 season the figure for English players in the starting line-ups of Premier League clubs was 69 percent. Ten years later that figure was down to 38 percent. Last season, another 10 years on, the same figure was down to 32 percent.”
Dyke’s ‘B League’ idea planned to implement a new tier between League Two and the Conference in order for Premier League teams to play their reserve teams. However, Football League clubs dismissed the idea instantly given the apparent disregard for non-league and lower tier football.
However, the method behind Dyke’s madness is correct. With the statistics showing the record-low numbers, something needs to be done to benefit the future of English football.
The statistics also translated into last year’s World Cup in Brazil. Studies showed the Premier League had the lowest proportion of homegrown players who are English (77 percent), a number dwarfed by other nations.
For Germany, the world champions, 96 percent of homegrown players were eligible to play for the national team. France had 93 percent, 92 percent in Spain and 79 percent in Italy.
Record breaking television deal
This week the Premier League released their mind-boggling television deal in which Sky and BT paid £5.13billion for the television rights between 2016-19 - working out at the broadcasters paying £113,000-per-minute to show every live game.
On the back of the deal, the Premier League stated they invested £340million in their academies ‘to create more and better homegrown players’ following complaints from angry football fans questioning where the money would go.
Supporters have urged that the money made from the incredible deal to go towards increasing the funding for grass roots and the football pyramid. As a result, the homegrown talent idea would also received greater funding as an increased number of younger players would get into the game.
Where will the TV money go?
With Premier League clubs buying their main talent from abroad, it is always nice to see a story such as Southampton’s steal the limelight from these multi-million pound transfers. Out of the Saints’ first team squad at the start of this season, eight out of 21 players were homegrown. Also bear in mind that the number was even higher last season with Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and co.
The refreshing sight of English youngsters on the pitch is one that enthuses supporters. Seeing a youngster progress through the system and make appearances for the first team in arguably the best league in the world often provides a greater thrill than witnessing a record signing score 20 plus goals a season.
People obviously want to see the best players in the world come to the Premier League, but would it not be better if the league could make the best players in the world right here?
Tottenham Hotspur are showing encouraging signs of doing that. Of Spurs’ starting XI against Arsenal in February, five were eligible to play for England and three players had climbed the ladder through the youth system - Harry Kane, Ryan Mason and Danny Rose.
The EPPP? Really?
In 2011, the Premier League began its Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) and from its inception to 2014, there has been a slight rise from 12.52 percent to the current 13.9 percent.
This rise is not as positive as it looks. It suggests that top flight sides are buying in foreign players at a young age and progressing them into the first team to classify them as home grown. While this meets EPPP standards, it defies the idea behind ‘homegrown’ players - thus leaving us back where we started.
A way to increase the amount of homegrown talent coming through could be to implement a certain percentage of players that must be English and homegrown in the first team squad. UEFA and the EPPP tried to implement this but without any real success.
There must be a set rule or percentage which has to be followed and if the rules are broken, there would be a punishment or a sanction.
The FA and the Premier League must fight for the cause to increase the homegrown talent coming through the ranks otherwise the league will slowly but surely become completely dominated by foreign players.
Should English football fans be worried about home-grown talent coming through the system?