In recent weeks, the state of English football has been questioned formidably.
With uninspiring performances from the national team in the most recent winter break, and the new FA Chairman Greg Dyke setting targets for 2022, the future looks bleak for English football. But why?
The popular answer to the question is the sport's grass roots. This refers to more money being invested into younger age groups to enhance skill at a lower level, then developing the talent further as the player's mature.
This would signify that the current crop of players aren't good enough to compete at the international stage, and neither are the U21s. Is this the answer? Maybe, but we won't feel the effects of that change for a good number of years. Next please.
Coaches! That seems to be the next popular answer. Apparently, it's only taken people 21 years to realise that an English coach hasn't won the English Premier League.
Clearly there is only one solution to this problem, spend thousands of pounds at England's new shiny headquarters, aka St. Georges Park, to train hundreds and hundreds of English coaches with the hope that they will achieve success.
It's almost ludicrous to think that if the FA invest in these coaches that they'll be given the managerial jobs at the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, and Manchester City.
Neither solution is a quick fix and if anything, it's more of a cop out on the FA's part. They would rather avoid any confrontation with the Premier League about these issues and have done for the past decade. With the two being run by separate organisations, it's not easy for them to always come to a consensus, but if the FA don't step in, the decline of English football will only increase.
As much as we hate to say it, there are too many foreign players in the Premier League. Although the majority bring variety, flair and skill, this only dampens the progress of young prospective English players trying to break through into the game. This is not to say foreign players shouldn't play in the Premier League, but we must find a balance.
The worst possible thing English clubs can do right now, is do a Sunderland. Di Canio wanted to change his sides' team dynamics majorly this season compared to last, and he wanted to refresh his squad. Bringing in 14 players is exciting for any club but not when you're a mid-table club with a limited budget. We all saw what happened with QPR last season.
Signing player after player in the summer, Di Canio kept strongly coming out saying how he wanted to sign an English midfielder, in an interview with the Shields Gazette he said: 'The club is working on the two full-backs, but more important to me is the need to get a key player in central midfield - someone who's English.
"He needs to be English, with a physical presence because we have analysed that is a need we have."
"English, because he needs to know English football inside out. And also a player with very good quality - because we want to play attractive football which gets results."
Not one of Sunderland's 14 incoming transfers this summer were English, or even British. With the likes of Cattermole and Wickham being used sparingly, and Brown in his 30s, the only real player with England aspirations is Adam Johnson, and his form has dropped from the end of last season.
If clubs are bringing in star players such as Ozil, Eriksen and Lamela, then that's a definite plus for the Premier League, but most of Sunderland's imports are not well known, such as Cabral who was bought on a free transfer.
The midfielder is known for his combative attributes and his quick passing. Is English football so mediocre that Di Canio couldn't find an English midfielder with the same attributes?
Huddlestone? Livermore? He was consistently linked with Huddlestone in particular, but rather looked elsewhere to players such as Ki who was signed on a season-long loan. One could argue Huddlestone is more talented and still has more potential to nurture then any midfielder at Sunderland. With his long passing and shooting always improving, and his continuous engine, the box-to-box midfielder would've been a great asset to Di Canio's team.
This isn't to say Sunderland are a bad club, as they're doing what they think is best for their club and fans, but if this is a sign of the future of other English clubs, the FA will be worried.
We've seen QPR, and now Sunderland, make wholesale changes, ensuring English players are neglected. Whether this is wrong or right isn't the debate. The debate should be; are English players players wrongly overlooked or are they just not talented enough?
Make up your own opinion, but if this continues, the FA's problems will only increase over the next few years with the pressure going to be cranked up as the number of English players in the Premier League is continually decreasing.
One would think that the debate that the English clubs should have a cap on foreign players or would be a welcome addition. The FA need to stop cowering in a corner and stand up for the English game. With the new chairman, Gregg Dyke looking like the man to lead the recovery, he must seek talks with the Premier League to look to made adjustments to aid the English game, as it is above all, the English Premier League.
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