By Scott Rogers
Another week of Champions League football and a similar story for the English teams involved, four wins, ten goals scored and just two conceded and all four sides either top or joint top of their groups after two rounds of fixtures. The dominance that English sides have had in the past few seasons in Europe is evident with Manchester United and Liverpool both winning the trophy in the last five years and year after year English sides are found in the latter stages of the competition. Looking back at last Season we also had a representative in the Europa League final with Fulham defeating sides such as Juventus in order to reach the final before finally falling at the final hurdle against Athletico Madrid. Whilst this success in European competitions shows that England is one of the leading lights in the World game, it also asks the question as to why this success can’t be emulated by our National side. For me the answer to this is simple, too many foreign players being signed for massive sums of money and these arrivals are stifling the English youngsters that are trying to break into their respective first teams and that dream of one day playing for their country. Just last year the England under 17’s won the UEFA European under 17’s Football Championship which surely means that England has a very bright future but the biggest question is, how many of these players will actually make it to the top and how many will end up playing in the lower leagues due to the arrival of so many foreign players coming to the Premier League.
Manchester United undoubtedly achieved a great three points away at Valencia which was seen by many as the result of the week due to how difficult it is to go away and win against a side like Valencia. However, just four of the Manchester United squad last night were English and compared to a number of Premier League sides, that is a high number. Just two of those four actually played a part in the 1-0 victory whilst the other two weren’t even introduced off the bench. England captain Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick where the two that played a part yesterday and although the return of Ferdinand is a massive boost for both club and country, these stats show why our National side is struggling. Premier League Champions Chelsea also achieved a solid three points with a 2-0 home victory over Marseille. Chelsea also included four Englishmen in their squad but this time all four played some part in the action with John Terry and Ashley Cole starting the game and with youngsters Daniel Sturridge and Josh McEachran coming on off the bench. Josh McEachran is one of the youngsters that is expected to have a very bright future and was even called the future of English football by his boss Carlo Ancelotti, hopefully this means he will be given a chance to shine alongside some of the best players in the World which can only be a good thing for player, club and country. Another positive was John Terry opening the scoring after just seven minutes with a neat finish from a Gael Kakuta corner.
Champions League new comers Tottenham were also successful in one of the results of the round with an emphatic 4-1 win over Dutch side FC Twente, this despite Spurs being reduced to ten men early in the second half. The Spurs squad included five English players which for me is still not enough. I believe that 6 of the starting eleven should be English which might mean the Premier League is not as exciting but surely that should be sacrificed for some success at International level. Three of the English players in the Spurs squad yesterday were also part of the England squad that performed so badly at the World Cup but so far this season have been brilliant for Spurs, which asks another question: why can English players perform so well for their club but when it comes to the England team they play like completely different players? For me this time the answer is not so simple but it has to be partly down to the huge expectation that is placed on the shoulders of the players every time they pull on the England shirt but surely that pressure is the same for sides like Spain and Holland but why can they perform under pressure but the England side can’t?
The final English side in action this week was Arsenal who have been criticised before about the very small number of English players in their squad and this time they could only name three in their squad which managed a 3-1 victory away at Partizan Belgrade. Jack Wilshere who I believe along with Adam Johnson is the best young player to be coming through the England ranks, again put in a fantastic performance and played a big part in the first Arsenal goal which is sure to have pleased Fabio Capello just as much as the return of his captain.
That means that out of the four English sides who named 72 players between them only 16 where English which means that there wasn’t enough English players on show over the two days to name a Champions League squad as 18 players can be named in the competition. This compared to the three Spanish teams in action who only managed one win between them in the Champions League fixtures this week but when it comes to the International arena, they are virtually unstoppable. It finally seemed like something was being done about the number of foreigners in the English game with the new rules being introduced which state that eight of the twenty five man squad that each team has to register at the end of each transfer window has to be home grown. This however does not mean that they have to be English, if the player was playing in England or Wales three years before their 21st birthday then they can be named as a home grown player. This rule added to the fact that teams can use as many under 21 year olds as they like no matter what Nation they are from, means that a team can get away with naming no English players in their squad. Therefore, showing that the problem of foreign players stopping the English youngsters from moving through and playing on the big stages is still very much as bad as it was and will probably get worse before it gets better. So a simple message to the FA, you either have the best league in the world or a National team that can compete against the best sides in the world and not just the likes of Bulgaria and Switzerland.
There’s no doubt that we have the players to be one of if not the best footballing Nations in the world but only if our future gets a chance to shine. Here’s hoping that 2014 can be better than 2010 because let’s face it, it can’t be much worse.