06 September 2007

Where have all the English professional footballers gone?

Stumbling and Mumbling has rightly rubbished (Sir?) Trevor Brooking's pathetic argument against the number of foreigners in the English (and indeed Scottish) leagues. The real problem as S&M points out, is that English players are simply not making the grade and the few good ones are rare (and therefore expensive). But what is causing this?...

Not only are English footballers not in adequate supply here, they are few and far between abroad as well. The 'Big Five' (English, Spanish, Italian, French and German) top leagues are awash with French, Italian, Spanish and German players, and the number of players from smaller countries and non-European countries have always been well represented (Scandanavian, Irish, Scottish?, Latin American, Eastern European, African, etc. Even US and Australian players are in decent numbers and these hardly play the game in their own countries). What is going on? Where have all our decent players gone? What are we doing (or not doing) that France has suddenly managed to get so right?

Well I think we have to look at a number of factors.

1. You have to go back a very long time for a golden era of lots of English players at the top clubs (if there ever was one). The English national team in the 1970's was probably the poorest we have ever had - failing to qualify for World Cups for over a decade. Even before the European/World invasion of players into out leagues, the English league was awash with non-English players. We all remember the huge number of Irish, Scottish and Welsh players at Arsenal, Liverpool, Leeds etc in the 70s. These are now competing with players from across the world.

2. The crunching tackle so beloved of British teams (that won us so many European honours) has been replaced by the dive. Europeans have always been better than us at this. Our kids are still cheered on by their dads to 'get in there' whereas on the continent the kids develop their dribbling skills and perfect their dives with suits the new rules much better.

3. FIFA/ UEFA have always had it in for us and corrupt players always get preferential selection. Transfer bungs for good looking, beautifully syllabled foreigners is always going to turn heads when our players are just too honest to win anything under FIFA's corrupt regime - just think Italy - the cheating bastards.

4. Our clubs have so much money now and need instant results, why bother trying to develop your own players when you can buy ready made players more cheaply from abroad?

5. It is self-perpetuating and exponential. Now we are getting so many foreign managers recruited to our game as well, they are obviously more likely to bring over players they know.

6. The French teams have to coach their players well because they rely on the transfer revenue and their governing bodies have shown a bit more foresight (as usual) in providing excellent training facilities. When it comes to club v country, club always wins over here which is probably why our leagues are so healthy and the number of English players so low.

7. Our school system has always been shit at encouraging sport - but it has got even worse recently.

8. We are a crowded country with loads more cars - kids can't even play in the street anymore. We mollycoddle them and we have the fattest children in Europe hooked on booze and playstations. Hardly the raw material we need for successful footballers.

9. Footballers are clean living athletes now. We could never get away with teams full of drunks like Bryan Robson and fatties like Forest's John Robertson, and expect to win again in Europe. Just impossible.

10. Lets face it - we are never gonna have a squad as good as the one we had in Portugal in 2004 - we were robbed, no goal - my arse! Sol Campbell for ever.

Why oh why do I get my hopes up every 2 years? Saturday is going to be tough.


  1. Your iconoclasm is one of the defining features of your blog and one of the reasons we keep coming back, but...

    Criticising Trevor Brooking (pbuh) is taking it a bit far. Is nothing sacred??

  2. Funnily enough he won a cup for your lot in 1980 didn't he? Was Brooking actually any good? I always thought he was too middle class to play football. How many times have I seen that goal where the ball got stuck in the stanchions.