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Are foreign imports stunting English growth?


The shock transfer ban recently imposed on Chelsea for their “inducing” of young French player Gael Kakuta has again raised the argument of English clubs scouting for and developing too many foreign players within their youth systems. Why?

It’s a simple numbers game.

Football is a global sport, so it would make very little sense for a club to ignore the wealth of upcoming talent outside of their own back yard.

Why would successful English clubs with the great history and tradition (or money) that is capable of alluring the world’s finest young talent not do so?

Do you think Barcelona, Real Madrid or Inter Milan would think twice? No, they wouldn’t.

Also, there are huge misconceptions regarding the amount of non-English players currently on the books at the top four Premier League clubs.

Liverpool have most notably been tarnished with a reputation of investing their time primarily with imported youngsters.

Yes, their reserve squad consists of only eight English players from a squad of 27, but their academy boasts a massive 18 English youngsters from the total of 24 they currently have on their books.

Chelsea, despite the recent punishment, have 12 English reserves within their squad of 19 (inclusive of Kakuta), and are developing 13 English youngsters within their youth squad of 22 players.

Another club that have been been subsequently implicated in the ‘tapping-up’ controversy is Manchester United.

The reigning Premier League champions employ 17 players of English nationality in their plentiful reserve squad of 28, and 21 from 34 within their academy.

Arsenal’s first team may be devoid of English players in number, but their Under-18 academy league squad boasts 11 home-grown talents and only eight imported youngsters, including three Irish players.

Their Schoolboys side includes 12 English from the 16-deep squad.

So, why the endless debate?

England have just stormed through to next year’s World Cup finals by winning all of their eight qualifiers to date, and at the level below, the Under-21 side reached the final of the European Championships in the summer.

The England Under-19 side lost out to Ukraine in the final of their respective European Championships and the Under-17’s won the annual 2009 Nordic tournament and finished second in the FA International tournament.

I believe English football and English footballers are progressing just fine.

Possessing the best domestic league in the world and being among the favourites to lift the most coveted and illustrious trophy in Jo’berg cannot be all bad.

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  1. Sam Hiser

    September 10, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Have you seen the footage on this kid, Kakuta? Chelsea will do well to just pay the fines & keep quiet.

  2. Joe

    September 10, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    The argument that Foreign imports are stunting English players’ growth is wrong and illogical, and here’s why.

    Imagine a scenario whereby the number of English players playing in the Premier League gets less and less, until there are no more English players left playing in the Premier League. Only the foreign imports are left. Would this be bad for the English team?

    In such a scenario, what would happen to the English players who are forced out of the Premier League clubs because are deemed not good enough? The answer, of course, is that they would play in the championship, League1, League2 and maybe even abroad. The more observant readers will notice that this hypothetical situation sounds eerily familiar. That is because it is exactly the scenario which faced English football circa 1983. The best British players, all playing with against one another, all in the same league. The only difference is the names of the teams. The 125th best English player now plays for someone like Preston when in 1983 they played for Spurs.

    In the 70s and 80s the elite of British talent went to play in the no. 1 league in the world at the time which was serie A. Some went to France, some to Spain, some to Germany. That very same group, the best small fraction of players, are now playing at the top of the Premier League, with and against foreigners, which to all intents and purposes is this decade’s serie A. The only difference is that it happens to be inside the borders of this country.

    Finally, where is the evidence that England are now any worse that at any time before? If anything they are better. England have not, in most of our lifetimes, beaten an elite class international side at a major tournament, not including penalties (and even then it’s a stretch). The only possible stand out is Holland at Euro 96 – at … WEMBLEY!

    England’s best world Cup for 50 years was Italia 90. What titans were disposed on route to that infamous semi final? Rep of Ireland – draw, Holland – draw, Egypt – 1-0 win from a set piece, Belgium, 1-0 win at the end of extra time from a set piece, Cameroon 3-2 including two highly debatable penalties, and … that’s it.

    England are now doing very well, considering.

  3. Lyle

    September 10, 2009 at 6:48 pm


  4. pookie

    September 10, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    But it is somewhat disheartening to see that in Liverpool’s starting 11, there are only 2 English players.

  5. The Gaffer

    September 10, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I agree. The quality and technical skills of English players in the Premier League have improved. However, the quantity has definitely decreased. The up-and-coming stars from the Football League (Championship through League Two) have less chances of breaking into the Premier League than before.

    As Patrick Barclay mentioned during a recent episode of TheGame Podcast, football managers often turn to the continent for players because there’s a belief that foreigners are better. However, as evidenced by Burnley, you could have industrious players in your own backyard but Premier League clubs often overlook them or consider them inferior because they’re English.

    The Gaffer

    • Lyle

      September 10, 2009 at 6:56 pm

      What I’d like to see is more English players and coaches going abroad. France, Belgium and the Netherlands are just a hop, skip, and a jump away, with plenty to teams in need of fresh players. More of them need to jump ship to other leagues to challenge themselves and to get playing time at a high enough level. A lot of foreign players get an opportunity, not necessarily because they’re foreign, but because they’ve shown themselves in some foreign league or at the international level.

      Industrious players also aren’t good enough for teams striving for Champions League places. And depending on said players character, they may or may not fit into a host of teams. England isn’t the only league good enough for English players. They need to get off the island and find some place where they can play and grow.

      • The Gaffer

        September 10, 2009 at 7:21 pm

        I totally agree Lyle. We do have a small number of English coaches abroad — many of them are in America, Steve McClaren is plying his trade in Holland, Bryan Robson may take the vacant Thailand position, etc.

        Sad thing is that if you had a website called ‘Brits Abroad,’ similar in theme to Yanks Abroad, it would be a pretty uneventful website.

        The Gaffer

        • Lyle

          September 10, 2009 at 9:48 pm

          Chris Coleman tried to do something in Basque region of Spain, but it didn’t go to well for him. John Toshack had been at Real Sociedad before and referenced him to the club, but what the club really wanted was a Basque guy to build up a team of Basque players. Not a proper place for a Brit really. So cheers for the handful of guys trying to make it abroad. Too many never went abroad in their playing careers unfortunately so don’t have too many contacts abroad, or they don’t speak any foreign language that might help them get their foot in the door somewhere. I think a lot of English players, like Americans, could play in Scandanavia and in Holland where they can get by with their English alone for the most part. I think there are a couple of English players in those leagues, but probably fewer than the number of Americans.

          I’d like to see more English guys and Brits do what Roy Hodgson has done and seriously have a go at staying abroad for a good amount of time. John Collins who was at Hibernian, the last I read was in Belgium managing and was rumored to be in for low level jobs in France (he had played for Monaco I think so has some Continental connections, etc…).

          Arsene Wenger even went out to Japan for a few years… JAPAN!!!

  6. Tim

    September 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Playing against and training with the best talent in the world improves all players, even English players.

    You only need to look at England’s record from 1970-1980 where they failed to qualify for even a SINGLE major tournament. That was a time when there were hard quotas on the number of non-English players that could be on a team.

    Foreigners are not the problem.

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