To read quotes from some of the experts in England, it’s almost as if the thought of Mikel Arteta playing for England would be tantamount to a German player being selected by the Three Lions during the Second World War. Well, perhaps not quite that much, but the negative reaction to the prospect of Arteta playing for England is mind boggling.
England World Cup star George Cohen said this regarding Arteta:
“More and more players in his category, which is to say good but not good enough for countries like Spain and France, Italy and Germany, would qualify through residency, and where would that leave the home-grown product? Suffering even more neglect than he does now.”
Henry Winter of The Telegraph is also against the idea:
“It would be another dispiriting lurch into the heart of darkness for the national team if Capello did summon a player who now qualifies under residency rules.”
And Roy Keane, Ipswich Town manager, has so much disdain for the idea that you can see it on his face in the above video.
No disrespect to Winter, Keane or Cohen, but the world has moved on and countries such as Germany are taking advantage of residency rules to pluck players from different nations and to improve their teams. England, with people thinking this way, are stuck in a stone age. It’s not about players singing a national anthem as Keane mentions. Most of the England players don’t sing their national anthem anyway. It’s about winning football matches and trophies. And in order to do that, the Football Association needs to be forward-thinking enough to allow Arteta (and other eligible foreign players) to play for England (with the understanding that the national team manager needs to pick the player).
I disagree with Cohen’s sentiment that home-grown product would be neglected. Soccer is survival of the fittest. So if English footballers have competition for their spots on the national team, that’s a good thing. If it means that Gerrard and/or Lampard have to work harder to earn their places on the England national team because Arteta is trying to get on the team, that’s a positive move forward.
I hope that Capello takes Arteta’s interest in playing for England seriously and gives this technically gifted Spanish midfielder a chance to shine for England. All I see are positives. There are no negatives. Capello and the Football Association needs to give Arteta a chance.