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The intensity of the Premier League is to blame for England's failings

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It's a debate that has been hotly contested for a long time now, yet opinion is still split over whether mass foreign imports stunt the prospects of home-grown players, or if the enhanced competition ensures that only the best of the local talent rises to the top.

Certainly, there are many arguments and counter-arguments that add weight to both sides, with opinions of the plenty amongst football fans regarding what exactly is to blame for England's lack of success.

Here, we take a look at and evaluate the strength of four stereotypical reasons that fans give for England's failings as a national football team:

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1. "There aren’t enough opportunities for young English players"

In reality, this argument isn’t strictly true.

Being born and raised in England offers a distinct advantage in terms of holding trials with British clubs and playing for their youth teams, and once a player enters a club’s system, it’s down to the player to prove their worth as they develop.

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There is no evidence to suggest foreign players are given preferential treatment at junior level.

Introducing strict rules where more English players must appear in a team’s starting line-up would lessen the pool of players a manager can choose from, meaning the team will invariably be weaker and, as a result, so will the league.

To reach the pinnacle of any sport, an athlete must be challenged, and a less competitive league will surely mean English players will only ever be able to reach a certain level.

As a means of explaining the flaw in this argument, this was England's last World Cup squad:

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Celtic), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion)

Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Chris Smalling (Manchester United)

Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United)

Now, how many players from this list were plucked from obscurity because there weren’t enough players of high enough quality? None. The main players in this squad were playing regularly for their clubs, against some of the strongest opponents in the Champions League - and winning.

Considering the above, the argument that English players don’t have enough opportunities is a weak one. After all, what is stopping our players from looking further afield and serving their apprenticeship in another country?

English players will only reach their potential if the fight for places is a competitive one.

2. "Sky-high wages are affecting the players’ desire"

This is a common complaint by fans, yet the opinion only seems to get aired when said fans are a little frustrated.

We all know that there are a fair number of mercenaries out there. Benoit Assou-Ekotto of Tottenham once infamously admitted he only chose to pursue football for the riches that were on offer, and most of us have felt let down by badge kissers who abandon ship at the sight of more money.

These players exist, and good luck to them.

However, international football is different. Although being a representative of your country at senior level tends to lead to better wages, international football itself isn't played for money.

So let's be honest, the moment you send eleven talented and competitive players out on any field, they’re going to want to win – regardless of how much money they earn.

Even if you’re a fan who believes footballers are only interested in their egos, you could argue that the bragging rights associated with winning a World Cup or European Championship would serve as further motivation.

3. "The nationality of our coach"

Of all the arguments put forward to explain England's predicament, this is by far the weakest.

There was an outcry when the FA appointed Swede Sven Goren Eriksson, and then the quiet optimism when they opted for the authoritative figure of Fabio Capello.

Being impartial, their individual pedigree couldn’t be doubted, yet some fans insisted they would have split loyalties should England face Sweden or Italy respectively, or that they wouldn’t be able to instil the right amount of passion into their players due to their lack of 'Britishness'.

If you manage a football team, especially one as prestigious as England, you’re going to want to win. It’s as simple as that.

Now, let’s take a look at English coaches of past. In recent history, we’ve had Sir Bobby Robson, Kevin Keegan, Graham Taylor, Glen Hoddle, Steve McLaren and Roy Hodgson, so it’s not like the FA are against taking the home-grown route.

These are men who have managed in the Premier League as well as abroad, each coming with their own unique strengths – yet still we have failed.

Having an Englishman at the helm does feel awfully nice, though, doesn't it?

4. "The intensity of the league causes fatigue"

This, by contrast, seems to be the most likely cause of our disappointing turnouts. In the Premier League, not a single game is played where you can be certain of the outcome. In fact, most weekends now offer at least one major shock.

Each team is now so strong physically; so bold tactically; and so well rewarded financially, that the gap between teams at the top and the bottom is smaller than ever.

Imagine playing in this scenario every week, with more fixtures than any other league, and without a winter break. Add in the fact our cup competitions are equally feisty encounters and you can start to see why burnout becomes a real issue.

There are a great number of people who would argue that fatigue is fictitious nonsense, but as any top athletes will contest, rest is just as important as training and there is little time for it in the Premier League.

It’s a non-stop, intense, enthralling struggle and that’s why football fans love it so, but when you compare it to what other countries are doing, is it any wonder we continue to fall short when it really matters?

Currently, England can be proud to have topped their qualifying group as clear winners, with ten straight wins making them the only team in Europe to have maintained a perfect record. That’s pretty impressive regardless of how kind the draw might have been.

However, with no plans to alter the Premier League’s hectic schedule, the question remains: When it comes to Euro 2016, will our stars have enough gas to perform on one of the biggest stages of all?

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England Football
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