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Are The Three Lions Losing Out On Future Stars?

We’ve all seen Victor Moses play before, but when his previous club Crystal Palace side traveled to lowly Reading in December 2009, he owned the pitch he played on and his stock rose considerably. Then 18, Moses scored a long-range curled effort, and his second came as he powered through two challenges and fired across Adam Federici in the Reading goal. His manager Neil Warnock was already talking about the possibility of the youngster leaving the cash-strapped Eagles for the Premier League very soon.

Two weeks later, the attacker than scored a blistering overhead kick at Barnsley. He followed that up with goals against Ipswich Town and Plymouth Argyle which ensured he was the hottest young property in that January’s transfer window. Glamorous names such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea were being branded around in a possibly short-sighted fashion, but Moses chose a surprising destination to further his career.

It was Roberto Martinez’s Wigan Athletic who snapped up Moses for £2.5m. Injuries and Martinez preferring to blood in his new starlet have seen the 20-year-old make only 27 appearances since joining, but he earned his first England-under-21 call-up last summer. With a European Championships three months away for Stuart Pearce’s side, you’d think this would be a prime opportunity for Moses to shine.

However, in a drastic u-turn which could prove costly for England in the future, Moses, who has represented England since under-16’s level, was earlier this year selected for Nigeria, the country of his birth. Moses is uncapped for the Super Eagles, and has reportedly turned down numerous approaches from Samson Siasia. The question is how long will Moses wait before succumbing to the advances of the African nation?

Another interesting turn of events came when FIFA recently scrapped the age limit of switching nationalities in international football. Before, a player aged 21 or under could switch countries if he had represented them at youth level. Once you have appeared for a country at full international level, you are unable to switch back.

Despite his immense potential, it is hard to see a call coming for Moses within the next season. If Martinez continues to use Moses as a substitute, Fabio Capello may look to other younger players who lead the line for their side. In 11 appearances for the DW Stadium side this season, seven have been from the bench.

So the FA and Capello could take note that Moses could switch to the Nigerians at any time. England have slipped up in the past in taking on young talent at their disposal. For example, Arsenal’s hailed goalkeeper Bob Wilson made over 300 appearances for the Gunners, yet earned two Scotland caps through family connections after being ignored by England.

There are many other examples, like Moses.

Like Moses, another player with brimming promise in the Premier League is Manchester United’s Danny Wellbeck, currently on loan at Sunderland. He has fired in six goals for the Black Cats, and Ghana’s football association, as well as team-mate and Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan have both spoken explicitly about their desire to see Wellbeck in the Black Stars’ shirt.

Especially in this case with younger players, we live in dangerous times. It is sad to see a player brought through the age levels with a certain country, then be the subject of interest from another country. When Ghana approached James Harper about appearing for the Africans, he admirably rejected them as he said he didn’t even know where Ghana was on the map, despite the fact that he’d love to play international football at some time. His Reading team-mate Dave Kitson gave the Republic of Ireland a similar reaction.

So it’s good to see there is a display of loyalty in some cases. Yet, international football does become somewhat fractured at times. Ciaran Clark is a hot prospect and represented England up until under-21 level, but then appeared for Republic of Ireland. Jermaine Pennant has also issued a bemusing come-and-get-me plea to the Irish after being repeatedly overlooked for England, after amassing an astonishing 24 caps for England under-21s.

Like the case of Clark and possibly Moses and Wellbeck ending up in the same boat, it is a shame to see talent from England’s youth levels seduced by other countries. Particularly at major tournaments for the under-21s, many of the side would have already been capped by the full side, or at least are on the cusp. In that case, surely these unsavory tugs of wars between players are unethical. The players of course get the final say but the rules are complex at times.

But is Moses good enough for England in the first place? Would you like to see him lining up for the Three Lions and at this summer’s under-21s European Championships in Denmark? How do you feel about the rule that players can switch nationality after they have represented a country’s under-21s? We’d love to hear your opinions as you readers are what drives the website. Please feel free to comment below.

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  1. Franz Ramirez

    April 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Interesante debate. Deseo ser puntual sobre algunas cosas que para mi están claras.
    1. Como alguien dijo, todo jugador debe representar al país con el cual se identifique y tenga sentimiento, jugar por la selección a diferencia de hacerlo por un club incluye el patriotismo, algo fundamental que hace grande a campeonatos como la Copa del Mundo, Eurocopa o Copa America. Es feo ver un jugador que no demuestra ese sentimiento, cuando están entonando las notas de su himno (caso Gary Nevile o Jamie Carragher).
    2. Si en Inglaterra hay 4 o 5 jugadores que no fueron convocados a la Seleccion Inglesa, en Brasil deben haber 30 o 40, el detalle mas importante es que deben tener la calidad suficiente para ser seleccionados, estoy seguro que cualquier jugador que tenga la posibilidad desearía jugar por Inglaterra, pero el deseo no es suficiente, se necesita calidad. Me apena mucho que Giggs o Bale hayan elegido a Gales, pero realmente podían jugar por Inglaterra?
    3. Creo que esta apareciendo un nueva generación de jugadores ingleses, que darán muchas alegrías al país, hay que saberlos trabajar y apoyar para que alcancen su máximo desarrollo futbolístico. En eso deben trabajar la FA y la EPL, para no traer tanto extranjero mediocre que no son mejores que los jóvenes futbolistas ingleses.

  2. james

    March 21, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    A quick correction to Pete’s comment: Ryan Giggs wasn’t eligible to play for England, as he’s pointed out himself on a number of occasions. At the time, eligibility required either the player or a parent or grandparent of the player to be born in that country. Giggs was born in Wales to Welsh parents, although oddly enough he was eligible for Sierra Leone through his paternal grandfather. He qualified for England Schools as he was schooled in England, but that didn’t make him eligibile for the England team proper.

    I really doubt we “missed out” on Bale, to be honest. Although the current residency rules would eventually have allowed him to play for England if he’d wanted to, is there any suggestion that he did? As far as I can see, he’s fairly obviously Welsh and has been playing for their national sides consistently since the age of 16 – indeed, he played for the senior side only a year after moving to England. I doubt playing for England even crossed his mind.

    On the subject of the other players mentioned, I really think we ought to relax. Every player will have their own reasons for choosing to represent a particular country, and we should simply respect their choices; it wouldn’t be very sporting or dignified to try to bind them to England by calling them up before they’d otherwise be deemed ready. Moses has chosen Nigeria – well, that’s up to him (and perhaps not entirely surprising given that he was born there, as were his parents). Ciaran Clark has chosen Ireland, for whatever reason – again, his choice and Ireland’s. Incidentally, Clark was getting called up to the under-21s prior to his switch, and had captained England’s under-19s, so I don’t think a lack of interest on England’s part pushed him away. Of course it would be great if those players had chosen England, but if their heart wasn’t in it, it would have been a pretty hollow victory. Let’s just get behind those who do choose England. There are still plenty who will.

    I wonder if worries like these stem from the myth of “bare cupboards” that had another outing after the World Cup; the idea that we don’t have any talent coming through, so we can’t afford to lose a single one. Well, it wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. With the likes of Adam Johnson, Aaron Lennon, Andy Carroll, Daniel Sturridge, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott, Tom Cleverley, Josh McEachran, Ravel Morrison, Ross Barkley, Connor Wickham, Benik Afobe, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Scott Sinclair, Raheem Sterling etc., all under the age of 25 and able to play in attacking positions, how badly do we really need Moses? And is Clark really a better prospect at centre back than Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Martin Kelly or Steven Caulker? I wouldn’t have said so, and they’re all younger than him. Thrown in the likes of Andre Wisdom and Nat Chalobah in the younger age groups if you like. We’ll be fine.

    It would be nice to see Onuoha and Welbeck get called up though. Not because they’re eligible for other countries, but because they’re bloody good players right now!

  3. paul

    March 17, 2011 at 1:24 am

    Danny Welbeck is being pressured by a lot of his teammates to join the Ghana national team. Given that Capello is here for another 4 years, I think he should go ahead and join the ghanaian team. it’ll be a big disappointment for England given that the kid can really play.

  4. pete

    March 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    G Bale was a big miss for England, but he may have turned them down anyway, Giggs could have played for England, he did play England schoolboys, but he turned down the chance to play for the mens team in favour of Wales.
    Most of these players don’t matter anyway though, the reason they are not capped is that they are not good enough and therefore it’s no loss. No point in being 5th or 6th choice for England when you can start for someone else, i suppose that is what most of the think.
    Bale is the only player that has slipped through the net and like i said he might have turned England down, just the way Giggs did.

    I must admit, Giggs not playing for England killed me, the left wing has been Englands worst position for the last 20 years and we could have had probably the best left winger in the world for the last 20 years.
    Do the math

  5. lefthog

    March 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Every Football Association has to deal with this kind of problem:
    – US Soccer lost out on Giuseppe Rossi (Italy) and Neven Subotic (Serbia).
    – The Algerian National Team in South Africa was two thirds born and bred in France.
    There are many more examples.

    It is now almost like Recruiting in College Athletics. The FA has to make an honest effort to keep these players through their officials and coaches right up to the FA chairman and the England manager.
    England is also special problem because so many of their potential players are also eligible to play for the other Home Nations. Think of it: Gareth Bale was elligible to play for England. But nobody from the FA made an effort to “recruit” him and now he is a Welsh international.

  6. Sam

    March 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    jamie o’hara, leaning toward republic of ireland

  7. Eddie

    March 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    This might be a concern, if your ENGLISH, but the reality of the situation is if the EPL did not import the best players in the WORLD then I would not watch the EPL. Certain English players will not play regular games because foreign players are ahead of them, does the EPL want the money that comes from fans around the world or does it want to promote English football ?

    • pete

      March 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      I don’t think English people have a problem with good foreign players playing in the Prem, i certainly don’t. I do however have a problem with what i would describe as average foreign players playing in the prem. Players who are no better than a lot of English kids. Yes, lets take the best the world has to offer as this is only good for the league and the improvement of the English players playing with them but average foreign players, no thanks. They do no good whatsoever, all they do is stop English kids getting a chance to get on the field.

  8. Dave C

    March 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    I don’t think it’s happening (to good players) any where near often enough to say that there is some kind of trend of England losing future stars.

    If anything, especially in the case of Jermain Pennant and Victor Moses, it seems more a case of “Young player shows a lot of potential and then his career fizzles out” -which is pretty common amongs a lot of players (who don’t all have the good fortune of an African ancestry to fall back on for international call-ups).

  9. Barrie

    March 16, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Victor Moses certainly showed a lot of potential at both youth level and a short time at Crystal Palace. But while he’s not getting much game time at Wigan, it’s hard for Fabio Capello to call him up to his England squad other than “to prevent Nigeria taking him”. Although wasn’t that what the Netherlands did with George Boateng and Collins John several years ago?? Protecting their potential!

    Danny Welbeck was on his way to meriting an England call up earlier this season before injury struck. Given that he’s a Manchester United youth and playing well in the Premier League for Sunderland, Capello should certainly look at calling him up in the near future before he goes on to play for Ghana. There’s a lack of English goalscorers at the moment, so he is certainly in a position to be called up on the basis of merit rather than for the sake of preventing Ghana selecting him!

  10. Will

    March 16, 2011 at 8:12 am

    If Moses ever gets a chance playing up front rather than on the wing he will be a big player. Warnock stuck him on the left wing and Martinez is doing the same. The run of goals you mention were in the only period of his palace career he played up top.

    Dont get me started on U21 selection, if you dont play for a prem team (and their reserves) you will be hard pressed to geta call up. Moses got one the moment he left palace despite his good form previous and Nathaniel Clyne has no chance while he is considered one of the best full backs in the championship playing at palace.

  11. trickybrkn

    March 16, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Today I read that Ashley Young has to move to a bigger club to play for England. Ashley Young is already playing at the top flight domestically. Sort of proves our point that the FA aren’t really looking at the pool with a wide angle.

    But the nation swapping is more of a FIFA issue. As supporters of the sport do we want national teams to simply be extensions of club football. with nations looking to bring in the best talent, as opposed to developing it…

  12. Paul

    March 16, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Interesting article.
    Your comment about Bob Wilson wasn’t a good example though. Gordon Banks was England Goalie (the best of all time imho) at the time and then other top keepers such as Peter Shilton, Ray Clemence, Joe Corrigan, Peter Bonetti were all lining up in front of Bob. He was a decent Goalie yes but nowhere near being clearly the best at the time. (sorry gooners). Now we haven’t even got one good English keeper! (all average) The problem now is that there are not have enough opportunities for young players to play week in and week out in the top league. There are far too many average foreign players in the premier league who need to be turfed out. Give our players a chance to better themselves playing with and against the best. It’s not going to happen because the FA do fa to help the situation.

    • Dave C

      March 16, 2011 at 2:37 pm

      My thoughts exactly – Bob Wilson was a decent goalie, living in an era of several great England goalies. Although it does speak volumes about the problems England have nowadays – these days, if you’re (a) English and (b) an EPL goalie, you’re pretty much locked into the England squad, regardless of whether you’re good or not.

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