September 8, 2012
When England won the World Cup back in 1966, manager Alf Ramsey found it hard to select a squad because he had so many players to choose from. Fast forward to 46 years later and England manager Roy Hodgson also has a hard time choosing a team…but it’s because he has so few players to select from. Even though there are 20 Premier League teams in England, as well as 92 professional clubs in total, the pickings are pretty slim these days.
On the weekend of Sept. 1st, 209 players started games for 19 Premier Clubs that saw action and just 66 of them were English, which represents a little more than 30 per cent. In reality, the English national team selects players from the English Premier League (EPL) only, even though any English player can represent his country, no matter what league or division they play in. In total, it’s estimated that there are about 330 English players signed in the EPL.
This makes things a little tough for Hodgson when he’s trying to pick squads for the nation’s World Cup qualifiers, especially since some of the top stars such as Wayne Rooney, Andy Carroll, Ashley Cole, Adam Johnson, Ashley Young, Micah Richards, Jack Wilshere, and Scott Parker were all out injured and missed England’s opening group game, a 5-0 against Moldova on Sept. 7th. The ultimate goal of course, is to earn a spot at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and win it.
Hodgson will have to choose players that aren’t getting regular games for their clubs, meaning they won’t be in the best game shape and their timing could be a little off. During the weekend of Sept 1st, Norwich started the game with six Englishmen with Southampton equalling them. Queens Park Rangers and Stoke each started five while Everton, Manchester United, Sunderland, Swansea, West Ham, and Tottenham, played four. Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester City each started with three and Newcastle, Fulham, West Brom, and Aston Villa played a pair apiece. To top it off, Wigan didn’t start a single Englishman.
The EPL is on a break this week due to the World Cup qualifiers. But when the English players get back to their clubs they may find even more overseas players in their squads. This is because the transfer deadline just ended and more of them were signed and are now eligible to start playing. While this may make for an exciting domestic league in England, it doesn’t really help their national team. Other countries face the same problem while some don’t.
In Italy, AC Milan started their game on the weekend of Sept. 1st with 10 Italians. This was the most ever in the past 17 years for the famous team. However, things weren’t always like this in Italy’s Serie A league. Just two years ago there were only four Italians on the pitch at the start of an Italian Super Cup match between Roma and Inter Milan.
While English teams are buying foreign players left, right and center, there aren’t many Englishmen at all playing in other leagues around the world. Premier League clubs spent 110 million pounds on transfer deadline day for players, with most of the money going to other countries. The only recognizable player that went the other way was Joey Barton of Queens Park Rangers. The team’s former captain went to Marseille in France, but only on a loan. He was also suspended for the first 12 games of the season and must serve it in France now.
With new players being signed at the transfer deadline it looks like several more Englishmen could lose their positions at their teams. The future doesn’t look very rosy for some of them at club level, but strangely enough they will likely keep being selected for their country. Players such as Daniel Sturridge of Chelsea and Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck often struggle to get a game with their club teams, but are looked upon as the future stars of England. Things don’t look too bad for English goalkeepers at the moment since Joe Hart, Robert Green, and John Ruddy all started their league games. However, Green’s job could be in jeopardy as his club, Queens Park Rangers, signed Brazilian goalie Julio Cesar in the transfer window from Inter Milan of Italy.
Because so many foreign players are entering the Premier League there’s a good chance that Hodgson will have to start looking around the Championship League in England for future international players. This is the second tier of England’s four professional divisions. While England saw just 31.6 per cent of Englishmen starting for their clubs in early September, 64 per cent of Spain’s La Liga was made up of Spanish starters with the French Ligue 1 starting with 62 per cent of French players. It dropped to 52 per cent for the Italian Serie A and 45 per cent in the German Bundesliga.
Premier League teams often buy English players since the rules state that eight of the 25 players on their rosters must be “homegrown.” But once they’re brought into the squads, they often sit on the bench as they’ve already served their purpose of meeting squad requirements. Of course, when they don’t play they don’t develop and this causes a problem for the national team. In total there are approximately 70 different nationalities represented in the EPL and if things keep going the way they are, the English Premier League may actually be English in name only in the near future.