By Josh Powell | Disgruntled England fan
‘I don’t think the Premier League is too global but you have too many foreigners and not enough English players, so your national team is not yet at the level of these national teams (Spain, Germany and Italy)’.
Sepp Blatter, January 15th
Today the English FA celebrates its 150th anniversary with a shindig down in London. But in that 150 years England have won just one World Cup. Incredibly we’ve managed to invent yet another game that we’re not very good at.
There are many things Sepp Blatter has got terribly wrong in his reign as FIFA president since 1998. His views on goal-line technology and fixing racism with a hand-shake are so wide of the mark it makes Fernando Torres look good. The decision to host the World Cup 2022 in Qatar is barmy and in no way affected by any briefcases of money exchanged by men in dodgy fake moustaches.
But the law of averages dictates that at least one controversial remark he comes out with should hold some weight. Sadly he might just have nailed England’s failures.
It may be that years of applauding defenders who hoof the ball 60 yards in the general direction of a lanky striker has blurred our vision of World Cup winning football. Maybe the media-hype surrounding players like Scott Parker and Aaron Lennon is widely misjudged. Or maybe Sepp actually has a point when he says that there aren’t enough English players in the Premier League.
Only 38 per cent of the 596 Premier League’s players are English. In Spain 62 per cent of La Liga players are Spanish, just over half of Bundesliga players are German and 48 per cent of Serie A are Italian.
People will say that the Premier League is healthy despite this, and the fact that relegation-threatened Sunderland can beat English Champions Manchester City makes this the most exciting league in the world. Maybe it does and maybe spending a month in Kos with your 10 mates downing sambuca and eating undercooked kebabs sounds like the most exciting holiday in the world. But, like the England team, it will end the same. A bunch of unhappy lads flying back to Heathrow after just two weeks having thoroughly embarrassing themselves and not lived up to the high expectations.
The lack of English players playing at the highest level can go one step further to explaining their downfall. Of the last 10 major tournaments England have qualified for they have been knocked out on penalties a massive six times. It could be that English players do not get exposed to high-pressure games often enough.
Out of the four English clubs in the Champions League, only 29 per cent of players were English. This is a huge difference to the Spanish teams (46 per cent), Italian teams (52 per cent) and German teams (53 per cent).
Will we ever reach the standards of teams like Spain and Germany with the global influx in the Premier League? Or is it simply that English players will never be that good, we just build them up to be superstars because they’re English (Theo Walcott circa 2008 I’m looking at you).
The last 150 years gave us just one World Cup victory, the next 150 years might not even be as fruitful.