England ‘will need to trawl Championship for players’
GARETH SOUTHGATE has warned that England managers will have to start trawling the Championship for players if the number of domestic footballers in the Premier League does not increase. Southgate said yesterday that the percentage of English players starting top-flight games is continuing to trend downwards at an alarming rate. The England manager revealed that on a recent Premier League weekend only 28 per cent of the players starting games were eligible for the Three Lions.
‘I am happy with the group but in certain positions we are short of depth,’ said Southgate as he announced his squad for next week’s opening European Championship qualifier in Naples against Italy.
‘The numbers of English players is deteriorating rapidly in the Premier League. That’s not a concern for me in the next 18 months but in the next four or five years we have got to be really careful. The numbers are the numbers. They’re not going up. That’s clear. That 28 number has happened on a couple of weekends in the last few weeks. ‘It has been around 32 per cent but that’s down from 35 when I took over and 38 in the years before so the graph is clear — there’s no argument about that. ‘I think we’ve got four left-footed left backs in the league at the moment. So we’ll have to start looking in the Championship or elsewhere, because we also don’t export many players.’
The Premier League moved to explain last night that though the numbers are down slightly this season they are, on the whole, broadly in line with the five-year average of 32 per cent prior to that.
But Southgate sees issues for the nation’s prospects outside of how many English players turn out for their clubs every weekend.
‘The concern would be the most recent trend which was the January window,’ he added. ‘There were 55 deals and 44 were players who were either new foreign players coming in or the two who were here already, Jorginho and Sambi Lokonga, who moved from club to club. ‘Of the English deals a couple of
those were second or thirdchoice goalkeepers and three were youth transfers.
‘If we keep going in that direction it is clear that those numbers are going to drop again. The start point is we want to keep the Premier League as the best possible league.’