Last week Trevor Brooking claimed that big clubs such as Man City and Chelsea are stunting England’s future by hoarding, but not playing, young talent. It’s clear that young players struggle to make the step from youth systems to the first team at England’s big clubs, and the problem is something that every country is trying to protect.
I think this is a problem for both the players and the clubs.
How hard are the clubs working behind the scenes to develop players and add to that talent? For many, it seems the objective is to foster talent and then sell it to make a profit.
Make no mistake — players do get attractive offers from big clubs, but it’s down to the club to accept the first offer before personal terms can be agreed. Instead, clubs could give young players the opportunity to continue playing first team football, and also protect them psychologically.
Sometimes it’s easy for players to lose their heads and believe they’ve made it after an England call up, or after one good season. They need to be reminded that they need to repeat it again and again.
A few clubs like Spurs and Southampton are good at producing their own first team players, but it has become rare across the Premier League as a whole. If you look at Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City, you’ll struggle to find an English player below the age of 25 who has progressed through the academy and into the first team.
But if some teams can do it, every team can.
The big money teams seem to struggle the most because they prefer to bring in the best, experienced players from around the world in order to win the league. I’ll give you two examples.
In my first season at Ajax I had to battle with two new top players. One, a first team player for Brazil Marcio Santos – who had just won the World Cup in the summer. Another was John Veldman, who was the best right back in the country at the time.
At Chelsea, I also had to contend with Albert Ferrer who I used to watch playing for the great Barcelona.
My only option was to work harder and make sure I had more energy so I could do twice as much as they could, learn from them, and do whatever they did even better.
We do have to understand though, that expectations are incredibly high in the most entertaining and chaotic league in the world. There’s so much top quality International talent that it’s always going to be hard for any young player to break into a first team.
The FA could enforce a rule where teams must play at least four English players, but the question you have to ask is: Will that help the league?
I hope clubs remember how proud they were of the class of ’92 with their amazing homegrown stars and a coach that made sure they all stayed grounded.
Clubs must take their time and be patient, because watching homegrown talent blossom is not only cheaper, but more satisfying as they grow into superstars.