The English Premier League is considered to be the best league in the world. Whilst that’s not provable (as I’ve mentioned many times before in previous blogs), let’s just say for the purpose of this article that it is. We have such an incredible depth of talent playing in this league, it’s undoubtedly the most televised league around the world and the overall wealth of it (this includes the size of the teams’ budgets, the prize money from finishing positions, TV money, sponsorships, etc) cannot be matched by any other league in the world. What this league doesn’t have though is a reputation for developing young, home-grown talent and turning them into first team regulars for their respective clubs.
Look at the success of the German national side in recent years and it’s not difficult to see how and why they’ve become the force they are. The Bundesliga is a conveyor belt of young talent, every team seems to be producing their own starlets and the selection headache for the national team manager Joachim Lӧw is becoming a severe migraine. When the time comes to name the World Cup squads later this year, his 23 man selection will ultimately boil down to who deserves to be excluded the least.
Now compare that with our situation. Whilst it’s true that our league is rich with talent, hardly any of this is of our own making. Why are we so proud of a league where an overwhelming majority of the top players are expensive foreign imports? Also, where were these players initially developed? Not here, that’s for sure. As a result of the aforementioned riches of the league, clubs’ cheque books are getting bigger and bigger (not to mention the size of the pockets of foreign owners). Also, with so much money at stake, the very last thing clubs are looking to do is take what they perceive as a “gamble” to nurture their own youngsters into the first team. The only club in the Premier League that springs to mind who are currently producing young players in the manner of a Bundesliga club is Southampton (Luke Shaw, Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana, James Ward-Prowse, Calum Chambers, Sam Gallagher, etc) and of course let’s not forget they also produced the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gareth Bale in years gone by.
However, in order to become a successful national side like Germany, there needs to be far more clubs that have the same willingness to give the youngsters a go. However, like I said, this is unlikely due to the fact that clubs don’t fancy the risk. Whereas Germany have difficulty deciding who to leave out of their tournament squads, we have difficulty in actually putting a squad together. That says it all and it’s unacceptable for a proud footballing nation like England.
If the Premier League really was the strongest and “best” league in the world, we’d undoubtedly have the national side to go with it. The very fact that we’re grimacing at a group of Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica once again says it all. We shouldn’t be. Whilst we have no divine right to qualify from a particular group, we should always be confident of reaching the latter stages of World Cups and Euros. Judging by the reactions of many people after the draw (including journalists, pundits and even Greg Dyke), we’ll be partying in the streets if we get out of the group. On the other hand, how many Germans are fearing the worst from their opening three games? Not many. No matter who they get in the draw, they will heavily fancy/expect themselves to go through as they know they have a squad that is the envy of most.
The biggest insult will be when a Premier League player scores against us at the World Cup to knock us out. A player who is deified by many thousands of fans in this country, whose name rings around the terraces of his home ground every other week. Of course, you don’t have to look far to find a connection between our group stage opponents and the Premier League and everyone who reads this will know exactly who I’m referring to (Luis Suarez). In fact, if that were to happen, it would illustrate the argument perfectly. It would literally show our national team being defeated by its own domestic league. Not a healthy state of affairs for the English game.