GARY TEDDER believes greater efforts must be made to give young English starlets the chance to shine...
THE musings of a football administrator, even a very senior one, can normally be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt, as they are often indicative of someone with an agenda tucked away in their back pocket, a reputation to rebuild, or an election to win.
But with the ongoing commercial success of the Premier League, executive chairman Richard Scudamore is totally secure in his position, and is arguably the most powerful figure in English football.
So when he talks publicly it’s because he wants rather than needs to, and his words – be they concise or crass – are therefore worth studying as a small window into the current thinking in the upper echelons of football within this country.
A couple of weeks before the new season started, Scudamore offered his views to the media on, amongst other things, the seemingly decreasing selection base for the England national side.
Views which, without having to read too deeply between the lines, represented a rather disinterested shrug of the shoulders towards the fate of Roy Hodgson’s men, and a reinforcement of the fact that his concerns were centred around the continued increase in the global demand for, and financial rewards to, the Premier League.
Take, for instance, his comments regarding the selection for England of players from outside the top clubs.
“Of course they can be good enough,” he says, “widen your horizons.”
The implication is that they don’t have to play for, say, a Chelsea or a Manchester City to be picked for the national team.
Unfortunately, the reality is that, with few exceptions, English youngsters who show even a small amount of international promise are snaffled up by the leading clubs, and subsequently find themselves as peripheral squad members, restricted to cameo appearances behind senior players, many of whom are from overseas. Come the high pressure matches which are critical in the development of players, it will be these senior players who benefit, while the youngsters have to glean whatever they can while observing from the touchline.
It could be said, therefore, that not only are the top Premier League clubs reducing the opportunities for English players; they are also assisting other nations by presenting their stars with priceless on-field involvement in high-intensity matches.
Conversely, if Mr Scudamore were right and there should be English players of international quality in teams in the lower half of the Premier League and the top of the Championship, where will they gain the crucial top level experience required?
Scrapping away for survival at the bottom of the division, or the Saturday/midweek grind of the Championship, is highly unlikely to develop the match-management skills or individual flair required to succeed at a World Cup.
Let’s look next at the line, “I’d love to see a decent sprinkling of English talent in our top clubs…” Here the use by Scudamore of the noun ‘sprinkling’ is enlightening.
Sprinkling would imply a light dusting as opposed to saturation. But Mr Scudamore clearly knows which side his baguette is buttered, as he made even more apparent when adding, “My objective is to put on the best possible show and for our clubs to attract the best players. If that means they buy some foreign players, well, they’ve been doing that since the league began….”
Hardly the most encouraging line for an English youngster to hear, and also a little misleading as, yes, clubs have been buying overseas players for a number of years, but not in such numbers.
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