England fans who blame Premier League imports for failure should feel ashamed

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Football News

That many chose to shamefully blame the ever-increasing number of foreign players contracted to Premier League clubs as the primary reason for England's failure at the recent World Cup finals in Brazil came as no surprise.

It's the same lazy and unconvincing argument put forward by xenophobic English football fans; yet another example of people desperately looking for a scapegoat to explain the Three Lions' abject failure at another major international tournament.

There's nothing to suggest that if the number of overseas players permitted to play for Premier League clubs each weekend was capped, then England would suddenly start fulfilling their potential at future World Cups and European Championships.

What it would do is significantly decrease the overall quality of the league widely regarded as the most exciting and popular on the planet.

Lack of coaching

The main problem lies with coaching - and, indeed, the number of qualified coaches - at grassroots level.

UEFA data from 2008 showed that England had a pitiful 2,769 UEFA licensed coaches - compared to 23,995 in Spain, 29,240 in Italy and a staggering 34,970 in Germany.

But, up until relatively recently, Germany were not able to boast such a strong army of football coaches at their disposal.

Much has been made of the European country's root-and-branch overhaul following their humiliating 5-1 defeat to historic rivals England in Munich back in 2001 - and so it should be. It was the watershed moment which convinced the German FA that something radical had to be done in order to benefit future generations.

And, after several near misses, Germany reaped the rewards for their brilliant long-term planning in Brazil this summer - producing a series of magnificent team performances, including a famous 7-1 victory over the tournament hosts in the semi-finals, to lift the World Cup trophy for the fourth time in their history.

Other leagues have overseas players

This triumph happened despite the fact that, like the Premier League, the Bundesliga has been home to a large number of foreign players over the past 20-odd years.

In a study conducted by BBC Sport in October 2013, it was discovered that Germany's top football league was split right down the middle: 50 per cent Germans, and 50 per cent foreign players. Spain, who has previously dominated on the international scene, posted similar figures during the same period.

Multi-national squads

Multi-national squads are commonplace throughout European football and have been for many years now. Barcelona may have boasted a core of Spanish players during the most successful period in their history under Pep Guardiola, but would they have been so successful without the talents of Dani Alves and Lionel Messi?

Could Bayern Munich, despite their exceptional core of Germany players, have secured their historic treble under Jupp Heynckes in 2013 without the likes of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery?

And, back in 1999, could Manchester United have secured their treble without Peter Schmeichel, Jaap Stam or Dwight Yorke? They certainly wouldn't have won any of those three trophies without the peerless Republic of Ireland international Roy Keane.

Nine years later, United were crowned kings of Europe for the third time in their history. The Red Devils possessed a core of British players, once again, but the talents of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Edwin van der Sar were just as vital. And who did they beat in that final in Moscow? Fellow Premier League side, Chelsea.

Watch: Man Utd v Chelsea - 2008 Champions League final

Standard of football has improved

English clubs have enjoyed great success in the Champions League since the formation of the Premier League - and the arrival of more and more overseas stars - even though the worldwide standard of football has increased dramatically since the days when Nottingham Forest or Aston Villa could win the European Cup on a relatively modest budget.

The standard of English football has also been enhanced since 1992 - thanks largely to the foreign influence.

Back in the early 1990s, the Premier League was nowhere near as popular as it is today. Kick-and-rush football was still prevalent and anyone outside of Britain who voluntarily opted to watch a Monday night fixture involving Wimbledon during this period of time might have found themselves sectioned.

Increase of world-class foreign players

The Premier League contained just 13 foreign players at the start of its first season, but the arrival of overseas players such as Eric Cantona, Gianfranco Zola, Thierry Henry, Paolo Di Canio, David Ginola and Dennis Bergkamp helped transform England's top domestic league into the behemoth that it is today.

All of the aforementioned players - plus countless more - have brought every Premier League fan an untold amount of joy plus an abundance of fond memories that all of us, as English football supporters, will never forget.

Imagine if we'd been deprived of such brilliance while growing up. The Premier League wouldn't be anywhere near as thrilling, while the overall appeal for budding young football fans would, subsequently, have suffered.

Watch: Thierry Henry - The Premier League's best ever player?

English footballers have improved, too

If anything, foreign players have helped raise the standard of English footballers. The reason England's stars play so well for their clubs, but are less convincing for their country, is because they're surrounded by technically-gifted overseas players.

In any case, the cream will always - always - rise to the top. If a kid of 16 is particularly special and too good to leave in the youth teams or reserves - like Jack Wilshere, Wayne Rooney or Raheem Sterling were at that age - then they'll play, regardless of the foreign talent standing in their way.

But because of the worrying lack of first-class youth coaches, England rarely manages to produce these potential world-class players.

Playing time theory is flawed

An average English player presented with more first-team opportunities at a young age is extremely unlikely to develop into a world-class footballer. But there are those who firmly believe the theory that a player equipped with average technical ability can become a world beater on the basis of playing a few more Premier League matches.

But, in a hypothetical league which allows fewer foreign players, these average players would be competing against teams with considerably less overall ability. It's an ill-thought out fantasy and not a viable solution for either bringing out the best in young English footballers or enhancing England's chances of ending their 48-year drought for a major trophy.

Any young English player wishing for first-team opportunities or a chance to improve should seek out a loan - or permanent move - to a foreign league. This enables them to learn different styles of football, a new culture and, from a human perspective, allows them to flourish as individuals.

Diversity should be celebrated and encouraged

Diversity should always be encouraged and football cannot allow itself to fall back into the dark ages by limiting the number of foreign players.

Not only is this unethical, but it's also doomed to fail as a potential solution to the England national team's woes.

Foreign players should be celebrated, not castigated. People who love football - rather than people who love the England flag - appreciate this.

But nationalism continues to rear its ugly and dangerous head in the beautiful game.

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