Whether or not England gain the point they need to sneak into Euro 2008, thanks to Russia’s stage fright in Israel more than anything England have done, much will be made of the debate as to why England have been so toothless and inept over the last few years. Excuses and explanations can be found in every corner, from the manager, Steve Mclaren, just not being up to the job, from the players showing little desire, to the players just being not up to scratch and relying on over inflated reputations carved out of being carried by good club teams. The explanation that is gathering the most voices focuses on the influx of foreign players in the English league system, to the detriment of home grown players, and thus to the nation team.
Those who are most vocal about this being the reason England are battling on the international scene, while their club teams are some of he best in the world, point to Arsene Wengers Arsenal as to the best example of the problem. Generally when Arsenal play there are no English players in the starting 11, and one when Theo Walcott makes a rare start. The team, describes by many as the most entertaining footballing team in the world today, rely on a cosmopolitan team made up of talented players from across the globe. Theo Walcott waits on the bench for rare starts. Justin Hoyte rarely makes an appearance either. But would the Emirates be filled every week if Arsenal was made up of average English players? Would they be playing the same brand of football that has made the Premiership stand out from the more tactical, but mundane, Italian league? The issue of whether or not foreign players, and foreign managers too, have helped or harmed the league is a simple one to answer. Without a shadow of a doubt they have made the league better.
At first there were only a sprinkling of foreign players in England. Cantona, Zola and Bergkamp brought a level of professionalism and flair to a game that was missing both. The days of players going out for a drink after training, of players eating anything they wanted, and of players not doing the extra work that was required to take them to a new level, where left behind. Players playing with these stars were quick to see that they had to change their habits and adapt or be left behind. This was the future of world football and it took the English league up to a new standard rather then have it lag increasingly behind as it had been doing. The best players needed to come to England, rather then Italy, as had been the case for many years.
With increased skill, flair and entertainment, came more money. Money poured into the English game, and this money has just increased and increased to such a state that the top teams weren’t the only one that could afford and attract the class and calibre of player that was craved by the team and fans. Without the foreign invasion there would be no money because the league would not be as entertaining and popular as it is now.
Leaving behind the obvious reason as to why the league can not issue a restriction on non England players per squad, that is slaps in the face the freedom of employment laws that all EU citizens have, that is would this be illegal, there is a far simpler case as to why it is not needed. If the English players were good enough they would be in the team. England is not producing players of a high enough standard to merit selection into the teams that are at play today. When less foreign players plied their trade in England obviously more English players played. Yet these players would have been in the same class as Championship players these days, with the exception being the Bryan Robsons, Terry Butchers and Gary Linekers. These players would have still gotten into any of todays teams simply because they were good enough. Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Michael Owen will all start for any club team because they are good enough. If Arsenal had any players of this calibre they would be playing. The best players will come through no matter what is infront of them.
Simply put, the influx of foreign players in England has brought out the best in English talent. The players that are good enough are playing in their clubs teams. Players like Wright Phillips, Crouch and Defoe need to leave their clubs to get first team football. The system is not to blame, the players are.
England failed to qualify for USA 94 when there were few foreign players in the league.