Friday 7 December 2007

The real cause needs addressing

Who could have missed the recent never ending chatter about how the 'English' game is being wrecked by foreign players. It seems rare to go a day without some good old xenophobic blame laying at everyone else's door but our own. I am English, I want to see England do well, but I think quotas are a bad idea and that restricting foreign player numbers is not the way to address the very real problems we have.

Arsene Wenger has his views on this issue and I happen to agree with him, however it seems that some people have rather short memories- do they not remember where English football was heading prior to Arsene's arrival? I would remind them that English football was stuck in the dark ages, using outdated training techniques while ignoring areas of progress such as diet and fitness. Football in this country has been revolutionised since, clubs and managers up and down the country have been forced into the 21st century; there is much more emphasis on technical football, while gone are days when players sunk ten pints as build up for a big match.

There are still problems with the English game. Nonsensical rules mean that big clubs cannot take on the best on English talent unless it is on their doorstep, meaning that clubs are encouraged to poach talent from abroad instead. However the English league is very strong, with English clubs dominating European competition on a pretty consistent basis. The English youth sides are doing well, examples of this are the U-21s who look a far better footballing side than they did ten years ago with results to match. There may be less English players in the top division, but the English players that do make it appear to be far better than in the mid 90s.

The PFA have come out with a document called 'Meltdown' that calls for a quota system to be introduced, and which appears to be spinning reality in a rather paranoid manner to protect its own interests; Gordon Taylor of the PFA claims:

"It is a crisis - we commissioned this report before England had failed to qualify for Euro 2008 because we could see which way the wind was blowing."

The crisis with the English team is down to incompetence in the FA and an incompetent England manager. As William Gallas pointed out in a recent Arsenal program, England have an excellent and talented group of players, so why on earth do they perform so badly and play a long ball game? A question that Steve McLaren should have to answer in my opinion. As Arsene says a quota system will do nothing to improve the English game or the England team, it will arguably just create 'professional substitutes'.

Xenophobic paranoia will only make matters worse, it is surely time we looked for the real cause for the malaise in the English game. England needs a manager who is tactically astute and who will select the best players, especially the best young talents. We need to continue our investment in facilities for developing young talent, we need to adopt more techniques that are used abroad to better select the attributes that are needed in the modern game, we also need to foster and encourage a better technical upbringing for our young players of the future; and then when they are ready, they need to be blooded and they need experience playing for the national side early. The quota argument just doesn't add up, just where were England in 1994 when they had over 70% English players in the top division? Certainly not at the World Cup in the USA.

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