As the start of the new football campaign draws near, many clubs are working frantically to make sure they have a strong squad in place to enable them to mount a strong challenge once the season opens on August 14th.
After England’s disappointing display in South Africa this summer, serious questions have been raised about not only the country’s grassroots development system, but also the number of home grown players performing at the highest level of the English top tier, the Premier League. Due to the large levels of merchandising and foreign investment which the Premier League has generated over the last decade, many of its top clubs have amassed large levels of income, therefore enhancing their overall transfer budgets in the process.
However, while England has produced a large number of quality young players over the last few years such as James Milner, Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott, the fact that these players are home grown has caused their transfer value to become inflated, pricing many clubs out of a potential transfer. For this reason many clubs see it as a much more viable option to purchase foreign players from outside English football for a much lower transfer value.
If we look at the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, many of the sides which are put out on a weekly basis by these respective clubs, have at times, little or no English representation. This therefore poses the question, how are England as a national side possibly able to compete at the highest level when many of its players aren’t playing on the highest platform from their sides?
In comparison to the English game, Spanish football is currently experiencing somewhat of a high after its national side recently added the World Cup crown to the European Championship they won two years ago. These strong performances have the country sitting proudly as arguably the best national side in today’s game. This feat is something which wasn’t achieved by chance or through luck, it was established though a strong development programme which has allowed its biggest and brightest stars to perform at the top level of Spanish football.
Whereas the English footballing elite boast very few home grown players in their starting squads, if we compare this with last seasons La Liga champions, Barcelona, we see a considerable difference in their squad selection. The Catalan giants are considered to be at the heart of Spanish footballs development, with over half of its side consisting of home grown players, all of which represented Spain in South Africa this summer.
So where does English football go from here in order to create a national side able to compete regularly at the highest level? The Premier League has recently imposed a ‘Home Grown’ ruling for the 2010/2011 season, limiting the number of overseas players allowed in a 25 man squad to 17. It is hoped that this will force many of the top clubs to bring more home grown talent into its starting squads.
While this concept will undoubtedly give many more home grown players a chance to develop their talent through competition in the Premier League, the ruling on its own is not going to help instantly transform English football, bringing through a batch of world class players who will redefine the national game. Although this is very much a positive step forward, the problem of player development still remains primarily at the grassroots level. For the young children developing their game, smaller pitches and smaller balls must be used to allow them to develop their own technical skills rather than enforcing somewhat of a long ball mentality into them at an early age by placing them on full size pitches far too early into their development.
Brazil as a footballing nation has produced some of the most technically gifted footballers over the last fifty years with the likes of Pele, Ronaldo and Kaka seen as some of the best players of their generation. The talent which the South American country has produced is in part down to the fact that from an early age close control and technical ball skills are seen as paramount in their development, with many youth sides playing on pitches which are a fifth the size of professional pitches.
This style of development is something which has proven to be very successful in world football, with Brazil lifting the World Cup five times in their history, and is a system which even the Head of Youth Development at the Football Association, Sir Trevor Brooking, believe England must adopt.
A limit on the number of foreign players in the Premier League will no double have a detrimental affect on the overall quality of performance which fans would see every weekend, but it is something which must be created as a catalyst to help drive home the need to redefine the English development system into a structure which will enable us to produce a higher calibre of player and hopefully enable them to replicate the past triumphs of our footballing greats by lifting the World Cup once more.
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