If you take a look at football fans in England this week, you’ll probably see a bunch of glum faces as they realise the grey cloud of international breaks looms over with only miserable national team performances ahead. Nobody really cares anymore. It’s sad how we’ve reached this sorry state of affairs, especially when our country boasts one of the most competitive leagues in the world, so how is it that we’ve become the big underachievers of the football?
Foreign players are scapegoats. They’re not the definitive problem and I disagree with the notion that they’re to blame for our failings on the international stage. Sure, the chances for young English players to make the long journey from reserve to first team may have dwindled but is it really because of an influx of foreign players? The truth is, we’ve taken British talent for granted to the point where football clubs are willing to gamble £15 million on signing Fabio Borini. Had Ravel Morrison been a young German prospect skipping past the Bayer Leverkusen defence and chipping the ball over Bernd Leno, we’d all be climbing over ourselves singing about his potential. He’d be on the back pages of every tabloid linked with a dream move to the Premier League– for a silly amount of money. If you’re good enough, you’re good enough. Except if you’re English, and overpriced.
We should take a chance on our homegrown talent and, when I say we, I mean the football clubs having faith in their youth academies (look at Ben Davies for Swansea) and us, as fans, giving them the encouragement they need to realise their potential. Nurturing isn’t just about the Wenger approach of wrapping a condom over inexperienced players for protection, it’s also about giving them the kind of confidence in ability you often seen in Spain. If Oscar can do it, Ross Barkley can do it. We shouldn’t overlook or homegrown talent.
Despite recent failings in U21 tournaments, England fans still have a reason to be excited for the future. With several key figures coming to the end of their international careers, the dynamics of the England team for Euro 2016 are going to change since we’ll no longer rely on the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Ashley Cole. We can play to our strengths in organisation, physical presence, and the type of grittiness you rarely find outside of the UK. We have Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck, Wilfred Zaha, Raheem Sterling, Alex Olade-Chamberlain, Andrew Townsend and Nathan Redmond all able to provide width and support for Wayne Rooney. Behind them, linking midfield and attack, there is Ross Barkley, Tom Cleverley, Ravel Morrison, Jesse Lingard with Jack Wilshere as the deep lying playmaker. They can play alongside an experienced, calm-head in Michael Carrick and the industrial James Milner or Jordan Henderson. At full-back there is Luke Shaw, Kyle Walker, Ryan Bertrand, Kieran Gibbs, and Carl Jenkinson who are all capable of marauding back and forth down the wing, providing the kind of extra width that’s popular among some of Europe’s top clubs. Inside them we have Phil Jones, a future leader and captain, Steven Caulker, Chris Smalling, and Michael Keane. In goal; Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, or Jack Butland. Who’s not to say the likes of Will Keane, Will Hughes, Jon Stones, Nick Powell, and Nathaniel Chalobah can’t make it in a few years either.
There are options all over the pitch and, whilst not every player will make it onto the international stage, we could actually have something to celebrate about providing Roy Hodgson, or whoever the next manager may be, can instill the kind of organisation and attention to detail you get at club football. Yes, we say the same things every year and, no, even James Milner has a purpose. Let’s stop this negative attitude towards our national side, particularly with unhelpful Twitter trends such as #WorstEnglandPlayer, because at the end of the day that makes us the Worst Football Fans. Keep the faith guys, and success will be sweeter.