“I could go to a league match and have only five English players to look at out of 22. That never happens in other countries and it’s worse now because of the imports.”
Sixty years ago in the early 1950s, that was how England’s first manager, Sir Walter Winterbottom, spoke of the English leagues with the influx of Irish, Scottish and Welsh players labelled as his ‘problem’. Now, as England fans enquire as to whether a Belgian/Kosovan/Albanian Manchester United starlet is legible for Roy Hodgson’s team, concerns of how much home-grown talent is present in the top English league is snowballing.
The Premier League, as the richest club competition in world football, is a global product with 61 different nationalities represented on the pitch. The benefits of such globalization are infinite and have even helped cultivate English society on a wide-range of pressing issues. However, on average only 32.6% of total minutes in the top flight is played by English players, a 4% reduction since 2007. Whereas in La Liga, debatably the English football’s top-flight rival, Spanish players attain twice as much playing time – perhaps a factor in their International dominance. When it comes to the Championship, British players accumulate 70% of minutes played with 53% of those being English.
In 2005, Arsenal became the first club to play a game in the Premier League without a legible Englishman, something that is ludicrous in the Championship. Charlton Athletic frequently use 11 English players in their match day squad, with Barnsley and Millwall consistently displaying ten home-grown players each. With Joe Hart currently struggling to gain public support and many fans bemoaning that there are few English goalkeepers regularly starting, look to the Championship where there are often up to 14 on show each weekend.
If you are truly keen on seeing the talent that England has to offer, it is the Championship that is proving fruitful and where your attention should fall. Having looked at the relentless competition of the Championship and now the impact the second-tier could have on England’s international chances, next week we will look at the fresh up-and-coming players that the Championship is producing.