Since the rise to prominence last Saturday of Adnan Januzaj there has been one major talking point in English football, the role of the foreign player.
Januzaj’s full debut for Manchester United away at Sunderland wasn’t anything short of brilliant, other than being booked for simulation, but could he really represent England?
Having been at United for two years, he wouldn’t qualify for another three years but during the past week many have had their say on whether morally it would be the correct thing to do.
We all want to see England perform to the best we can as a country, and everyone would love to see this country repeat the triumph of 1966 but should this not be with English players?
There is the argument that other countries play players who weren’t born in the country, Italy won the World Cup with Argentine Mauro Camoranesi and Brazilian-born Diego Costa has just registered to play for Spain but surely the Three Lions shouldn’t be pinning their hopes on an Eastern European 18-year-old just yet.
In the aftermath of the Januzaj debate, which even involved Jack Wilshere coming across as almost xenophobic in the way his interview was portrayed, is the influx of foreign players into the English top flight really stunting young English players growth?
Lord Triesman for one has called for a cap on the amount of foreign players allowed in clubs, but surely this would have an adverse impact of its own.
There is no doubting that with only 36% of the players in the Premier League being English is worrying but perhaps there is a reason for that: they are not good enough.
It is okay to say they won’t be good enough if they aren’t given the chance, but surely the players we produce need to be better, if they were clubs would not have the need to look abroad to bring players in, other than due to finance, another way in which the clubs themselves are to blame.
The FA chairman Greg Dyke wants the figure to rise from 36% to 50% closer to the numbers in countries like Germany and Spain, but this shouldn’t mean that the quality of player needs to be compromised.
To reach such figures clubs should be made conscious of the future, something very few football clubs currently are, and pump money into youth facilities and training coaches rather than splashing out on foreign stars every summer.
The influx of foreign stars though is still an integral part of the process, as it gives our best upcoming players the chance to showcase their abilities on the highest level each week meaning they will be ready to perform for England when it matters (something the current squad are about to find out all about).
Fatigue may set in though, but if the correct amount of time and effort is spent on producing young players there would be a wider talent pool to choose from, meaning the same player would not be run into the ground all season, and would be able to continue into summer tournaments, much like the Spaniards at the moment.
Also the over-expectancy on young shoulders like of Jack Wilshere and currently Ross Barkley would diminish. As would the high price tags for average players who have “potential” such as in recent years with the fees Liverpool paid for Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll. Both could develop into great players but at the time of purchase neither warranted the fees paid.
Currently clubs seem reluctant to let a promising young player go cheap due to the fact they don’t know when they will have another equally talented player come through their ranks again and the need for cash which leads to the club getting the best for themselves, rather than for the player.
There has been an argument for many years that a country can have either a strong national side or a strong league but not both, however, the Germans are most certainly starting to prove that thesis wrong.
The Bundesliga have done it through producing young players like Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Thomas Mueller but they too rely on foreign players, such as the likes of Arjen Robben, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robert Lewandowski in order to develop further.
This all began to happen after the German national side’s embarrassing elimination at Euro 2000 after which the DFB, the German FA, sat down with their 18 Bundesliga clubs and drew up a strategy to help produce young players and more coaches.
In England we already have one of the best leagues, full of foreign stars but now it is time to make use of St. George’s Park, build towards the future, have an ingrained philosophy (another area in which the country is behind still implementing archaic tactics at grassroots levels) with which we can produce talented homegrown players who are capable of playing at the elite level, and not playing due to having to reach a quota.
It will not be a quick fix, and will require patience but if the correct funding is made then English football could be something to be proud of once more. Rather than an inadequate side being hyped up beyond their ability only to fall short although they are really over-performing given our limited resources.