Theories are many as to lack of star development

Few players are graduating from the top English team's academies to play with their Premier League clubs. The National takes a look at the theories as to why.

Almost precisely two years ago, Germany beat England 4-0 in the final of the Under 21 European Championships. A year later, England's senior team were humbled 4-1 by Germany at the World Cup. Most recently, England's U21 side failed to get out the group stages in a European Championships.

The setbacks revived a recurring debate.

Unlike the situation in Spain, whose national team won Euro 2008 and the World Cup, and whose U21 team are the European champions, few players are graduating from the academies of top Premier League clubs to their national team.

Dave Whelan, the Wigan Athletic chairman, said that foreigners flooding the league system is the source of England's woes. Sam Allardyce, the West Ham United manager, blames the country's former prime minister Margaret Thatcher for "killing football" by refusing to pay teachers extra for coaching after-school activities.

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's French coach, has many times said the English Football Association are at fault for their "ridiculous" and "artificial" rules.

Ledley King from Tottenham and Liverpool's Jamie Carragher were the last academy graduates from one of the big six - Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, City, Tottenham and Liverpool - to make a first appearance in a major tournament. That was Euro 2004.

What explains the drought?

Foreign flood

According to recent studies, only 36.6 per cent of players playing in the Premier League are English. A prime example of the impact this has on home-grown talent can be taken from Old Trafford.

In 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, spoke so highly of his young English striker Danny Welbeck that he tipped him to travel with his country to South Africa for the following summer's World Cup.

However, with Javier Hernandez arriving from Mexico last season, Welbeck was pushed farther down the pecking order before eventually being loaned to Sunderland.

Pressure of success

Speak to anyone close to the goings on at Stamford Bridge and they will speak of Josh McEachran's emerging talent. When he signed a contract with Chelsea yesterday, one commentator claimed he is "the closest thing England have to Andrea Pirlo".

Yet because only Champions League success is apparently enough for Roman Abramovich, the onus is on the here and now at Stamford Bridge. McEachran managed only nine league appearances last season.

Daniel Sturridge moved to Chelsea after failing to win enough game time at Manchester City. But with the London side struggling for form, £50 million (Dh292.5m) was spent on Fernando Torres in January in the search for an instant solution. Sturridge went on loan to Bolton for a chance to demonstrate his talent.

Financial clout

England's elite clubs do not need to rely on developing youth; they each have the financial clout to cherry-pick the best of Britain.

Manchester United's youth academy has failed to produce an England international for nine years, and yet next season could see the national team feature as many as six United players at any one time, including this summer's new recruits Phil Jones, 19, and Ashley Young, 26, each of whom cost the best part of £20m.

Teams such as Blackburn Rovers and Watford nurture the rough diamond before the bigger clubs step in and pay top price for the almost-finished article. Developing talent is more cost effective, but not a necessity.

Lacking quality

When Tottenham signed the 16-year-old John Bostock from Crystal Palace in 2008, he was hailed as England's next superstar. Spurs disbanded their reserve team the following season and Bostock now has the choice of friendly matches or a loan move. At age 19, he should be pushing for first-team action; instead, he has endured unsuccessful lower-league loan spells at Brentford and Hull City.

Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, saidloan players "have to go there and be outstanding. If they are not better than the players at Bristol City or Hull, they are not going to shine at Tottenham".

Maybe there just aren't enough good young English players to go around.

Published: July 16, 2011 04:00 AM


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