English football’s identity crisis

For many years now there have been a lack of British coaches, managers and players in the top leagues in the British Isles, especially in the Premier League. In England’s top flight even the number of British owners has been falling quickly over the last few years. Across the Premier League and the Championship, there are just 16 clubs in sole ownership of a British owner. The Premier League current climate of hiring and firing in a short period, is having an increasingly detrimental effect on the English national team and the development of domestic coaches and players alike.

If the national team are ever going to be successful, the FA must act. There must be something put in place that allows British coaches, managers and players develop properly and given a chance. Something that baffled me this season occurred at Swansea. When the club sacked Italian manager, Francesco Guidolin a lot of people thought Swansea would look to a British manager to help their survival bid. Instead the club raised a lot of eyebrows when they appointed American manager, Bob Bradley. His time at Swansea was short lived due to a string of poor performances. The clubs third manager this season is Paul Clement – an Englishman. Clement got off to a great start to his career at Swansea, being awarded manager of the month in January. The question I have to ask is – why was he overlooked when the club sacked Guidolin? It isn’t just Swansea of course. This has been happening for a long time across a number of clubs.

Another reason British managers aren’t given many chances, the last two given a chance at big clubs are seen as failures – Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool and David Moyes at Manchester United. Although proving himself to be a top quality manager – unfortunately I do not see Sean Dyche getting a chance to manage one of the bigger clubs. That is one of the problems the game is facing at the moment – British manager’s are constantly overlooked. Birmingham City are another example – Gary Rowett was harshly sacked this season, he was doing a superb job at the club, Birmingham were sat in seventh place at the time. Gianfranco Zola replaced Gary Rowett at St. Andrews, the club are now sat in fourteenth place. Under Rowett it looked as though the club had a real chance of finishing in the play-off places. Now that seems unrealistic.

It’s not just coaches and managers that are being overlooked by clubs. The development of young British players is being effected. The influx of foreign players has seen the development of young British players stall. Young British players need to be given a chance in the top clubs. The emergence of young British players coming through seems to be lower than ever. One part of the problem is that, in the transfer market the British players have over inflated prices. Clubs feel they can get the same standard of player or better for a much lower price if they look abroad. The number of British players starting a game in the Premier League dropped by 15% last season – the lowest ever figure. If you look at the majority of Premier League clubs, you will be lucky to see over 3 or 4 British players in a starting lineup.

Obviously the foreign players are good for the exposure of the leagues in Britain, however the state of the national sides are simply not good enough. There is an expectation on England every time a tournament comes around – why? England failed to win a tournament or even get close to winning one when they had the so called golden generation. The likes of Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Owen, Terry, Rooney and Scholes were all in the golden generation. Yet England’s failures continued. In my opinion, England have not produced a good, solid side since Euro 96 – even then they got knocked out on penalties in the semi final.

During Euro 2016, England were joined by Wales, Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland. This was the first time that three nations from the British Isles had qualified for the same tournament since the 1990 World Cup. Bringing more British players through in the top leagues within the British Isles can’t happen overnight. However, there must be foundations put in place to ensure more British players continue to come through in the future. In my opinion, I do not see England winning a major tournament over the next 10 years. Being an Englishman that pains me to say. Wales have a much better chance of winning something – as they proved in the Euros last year.

If you take a look at Germany, Spain and Italy – all of whom have won major tournaments in the last decade or so. They all have a strong core of home-grown players, coaches and managers in their leagues. They each have their own Identity, their own unique way of playing. For England especially, I don’t see an identity, they don’t have something that makes them stand out from the other nations.

In the future I hope this changes – although I won’t hold my breath, the FA do not seem to have any decent structure in place to protect and develop home-grown professionals. Unfortunately for England fans it will be more years of hurt.