The paucity of English opportunity thread

Discussion in 'England' started by wellno, Aug 9, 2017.

  1. wellno

    wellno Member+

    Jul 31, 2016
    I guess past evidence is the amount of opportunity Klopp has given Curtis Jones, Nico Williams, Kelleher and Trent AA. It's far from the worst record but I can't say it makes Liverpool the standout choice either.

    That list of names is hardly impenetrable though. Milner is old and already a bit part player, it's rumoured Henderson will be allowed to leave this summer or next, Keita is always injured and Ox has been an auxiliary forward more often than he's been a midfielder in recent seasons. Big opportunities for Jones and interesting to see if Elliott as a midfielder persists.
  2. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
  3. Slater582

    Slater582 Member

    Jul 21, 2008
    Shrewsbury, England
    Tottenham Hotspur FC
    Are the Athletic articles by Matt Slater (About St George’s Park, 9 July) or Adam Crafton (contribution of the Premier League, 10 July) worth posting?
  4. Jenks

    Jenks Member+

    Feb 16, 2013
    #2829 Jenks, Jul 22, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
    In his position he would have Thiago (30) and Fabinho (27) in front of him. I don't think the pathway would be that dissimilar, depending on what Leeds have planned. There has been some talk of Phillips leaving Leeds though.
  5. Marcho Gamgee

    Marcho Gamgee Member+

    Apr 25, 2015
    Somewhere in English Arrogance land
    Manchester City FC
    Will post the first one and then the other one when I get the time :)

    As 2007 rolled over into 2008, and 41 years of hurt became 42, the Football Association was faced with decisions on two big investments: one was the Fabio Capello project, a £6 million a year punt to see if an Italian could turn Englandinto Italy, and the other was a capital project, the National Football Centre.

    The latter would cost an estimated £80 million, £50 million more than the original budget, and many in the game thought that was far too much to spend on a training base near Burton upon Trent, a Midlands town a two-and-a-half-hour drive from England’s place of work, Wembley. But England had just failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championship and the FA was under pressure to do something about it, so it gave the green light to both projects, one more enthusiastically than the other.

    Now, as the country hopes the hurtometer will reset on Sunday night after hitting 55, one of those decisions looks decidedly better than the other, and it is perhaps fitting that England’s opponents in their first senior men’s final since 1966 are Italy, the country that built Europe’s first national football centre — Coverciano, on the outskirts of Florence. Capello’s homeland did that in the 1950s, so we have had some catching up to do. And not just with Italy.

    The French Football Federation — worried that Germany, the Netherlands and even England were winning things — started to think about an elite base in the 1970s and eventually opened the Institut National du Football de Clairefontaine in 1988, a decade before France would win their first World Cup. The Dutch FA built something similar in Zeist, while the German FA had an unofficial base at Cologne’s German Sports University. The Spanish completed the set when they opened Football City in Madrid in 2003.

    The English? Well, we can be a bit hard of learning.

    “The National Football Centre was part of a plan — a very comprehensive plan — that we produced in about 2000,” says Howard Wilkinson.

    Now 77 and the chairman of the League Managers Association, Wilkinson led Leeds United to the last First Division title before the creation of the Premier League in 1992 and remains the last Englishman to manage a top-flight championship-winning side. But having left Leeds in 1996, he became the FA’s technical director the following year, responsible for the governing body’s coaching and player development work. A former teacher, Wilkinson knew what England needed: a Coverciano or Clairefontaine of their own.

    “Its impact can be summed up by the answer I gave to the architect when he asked me what I wanted the place to be and do,” he says when asked if St George’s Park, as England’s base became known when it finally opened in 2012, has played a part in the upturn of the national side’s fortunes.

    “I said I wanted it to be the Oxford and Cambridge of football. I wanted it to assist in the development of able and well-educated coaches, who would then be able to better develop players, in a more rounded way. Gareth Southgate and his team exemplify the ambition we had 21 years ago, and if Burton had not been delayed because of the financial problems at (the new) Wembley, we might well have seen the results we’re getting now a little earlier.”

    Ah, yes, the delays.

    As Wilkinson points out, he and like-minded administrators, such as former England and West Ham United midfielder Sir Trevor Brooking, wanted the FA to build a permanent training base 20 years ago. That was when Wilkinson found the site — 350 acres of rolling Staffordshire countryside — and persuaded the FA board to buy it for £2 million from the Forte Hotels group. They did not know what to do with it either.

    “The first time I saw it, I just thought it was fantastic,” Wilkinson recalls. “I saw it from a farm, looking over a gate. I thought, ‘This is it’.”

    Unfortunately, he fell out with the FA’s then-chief executive Adam Crozier over the latter’s decision to appoint Sven-Goran Eriksson as England manager without consulting him, so he quit. Wilkinson was soon followed out of the FA’s revolving door by Crozier, who left for an even bigger turnaround job at the Royal Mail, and his replacement, Mark Palios, was forced out in 2004 when a tabloid revealed he and Eriksson both had affairs with the same FA secretary.

    This was all a bit of a sideshow, though, to the FA’s real problem: the ballooning costs of rebuilding Wembley. Long story short, it could only afford one building scheme and Wembley won. Burton was mothballed in 2003 and a big fence was put around the dozen pitches the landscapers had put in at that point.

    Over the next three years, the FA dithered, with several big voices, namely Football League chief Lord Brian Mawhinney and Premier League chairman Sir David Richards strongly opposed, calling for the FA to cut its losses on the £20 million already spent and try to see if £5 million could be recouped by selling the land.

    Crunch votes of the board came and went, the security budget grew, local clubs Burton Albion and Gresley Rovers enjoyed the use of some lovely pitches, and England’s golden generation glittered but failed to get over the tournament hump.

    Did Wilkinson ever fear St George’s Park would get parked forever?

    “Oh yeah, absolutely. I remember standing up at the FA Council and arguing for it,” he says. “It was much like the recent debate on whether the FA should have sold Wembley to fund grassroots pitches. I lost that one but, thankfully, we won the argument over Burton.

    “Over the last few days, I’ve had one or two calls from people who remember and that’s been pleasing. But we had a strong team of supporters, some known, some not. And many of the ideas that were in the Charter for Quality, that my team produced in 1997, have been taken on by good people, Dan Ashworth (the FA’s former director of elite development, who is now the director of football at Brighton & Hove Albion), for example, and Gareth himself.

    “I remember talking to him about the National Football Centre in the car to a game when he had just joined the FA (in 2011), and he got it immediately. It’s good to hear him talk about the players as adults who are given guidance on what to do, they are not told. I am sorry if it sounds too scholarly but that’s what coaching and development is — part science, part experience and intuition, part caring.

    “The idea sold itself in the end.”

    And is it how he pictured it leaning on that farm gate 20 years ago?

    “We were sent lots of different sites by the estate agents and I visited at least half a dozen,” he says. “I initially wanted a site closer to Birmingham, somewhere nearer the M40 (motorway) would have been ideal, but Burton ended up being perfect.

    “I wanted somewhere with space for pitches and classrooms, somewhere people could learn but also enjoy spending time there. I remember there was a big pine tree in the forest that had been planted to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo. I wanted people to be able to see that from the hotel — I thought it might send a subliminal message. Maybe that sounds strange!

    “And I didn’t want a straight drive leading up to it, I wanted a road that would take you somewhere, so you’d come around a bend and then it would just open up in front of you and you’d say, ‘Wow’.”

    St George’s Park, which was eventually opened in 2012 at a total cost of £105 million, definitely does that.

    As Wilkinson explains, you turn into the property off a two-lane B-road between two villages, Newborough and Needwood. Burton, a town famous for brewing beer, is six miles to the east. Birmingham and Nottingham, the Midlands’ biggest cities, are about 30 miles away in opposite directions.

    To some, it is in the centre of England; to others, it is in the middle of nowhere.

    But even its detractors would have to admit that it is a well-appointed nowhere.

    There are 14 pitches, including the Sir Bobby Charlton Wembley replica pitch and the Sir Alf Ramsey indoor pitch.

    It has swimming pools, exercise bikes, rowing machines, lifting racks, a hydrotherapy pool, a three-lane sprinting track, medical rooms, a 330-room four-star Hilton hotel, the Sir Bobby Robson ballroom, a futsal gym, an outdoor “leadership centre” for team-building activities, conference rooms, a health spa, restaurants and inflatable unicorns.

    It is the home of FA’s coaching and education division, as well as the League Managers Association, and the training base for all of England’s 28 representative teams.

    “It has proven to be exactly what was required and when I think about those two huge capital projects, which most football federations wouldn’t have touched, St George’s Park has been far more important than Wembley,” says one former FA employee, who asked to remain anonymous as he well remembers how fraught Burton’s early years were.

    “But it has taken time for that to become obvious and it is part of wider cultural change in English football. Academies are only about 20 years old, we only brought in the Pro Licence in 2000, then you’ve got the Elite Player Performance Plan and the work that Dan Ashworth and others did on the “England DNA”.

    “I remember Trevor Brooking saying in 2009 that the second half of the decade we’ve just been through would be better than the first, because that’s how long it takes to develop a generation of coaches and players.

    “St George’s Park is working now, because a generation has got used to being there. It wasn’t that long ago that the senior team really wasn’t sold on the place. Moving the FA’s technical department there lock, stock and barrel was a big step. But it has become home over time.

    “I also wonder if that calmness people notice when they go there is because the current group, while very talented, perhaps don’t have as many superstars as there were 10 or 15 years ago. But that could just be about that change of culture. And that’s the important thing. It’s not really about the building, it’s about the culture.”

    David Sheepshanks, the former Ipswich Town chairman who was given the job of completing Wilkinson’s vision, agrees.

    “Before St George’s Park, we (England) were living out of a suitcase,” says Sheepshanks, who has been the national football centre’s chairman since 2008.

    “We had different teams training in different places and there was no rub-off effect between the age-group teams and the senior side, which you get at clubs. It was a revolution in the much-maligned FA Council that got the project back on track — they told the board they had to build it and I was lucky enough to be given the chance to lead a great team in getting it done.”

    Former Sunderland owner Sir Bob Murray, the centre’s first chief executive Julie Harrington, local councillor Frank McArdle, former FA chiefs Martin Glenn and Alex Horne, Ashworth and Southgate are just some of the people Sheepshanks names as being crucial players in the building of the complex.

    But he admits he was one of those who originally worried it was in the wrong place and says the concerns that many voiced weighed heavily on him.

    “There were plenty of sceptics! I remember them saying this cannot be a white elephant,” he explains.

    “Well, it isn’t. And yes, there were lots of questions about the location — I had them, too — but it has turned out to be perfect.

    “We didn’t build it sooner for the simple reason that we couldn’t afford it. I know that frustrated people and we’ll never know if we could have got to this point sooner, but we did learn a lot during that delay.

    “I remember meeting the architect for the first time — a great guy called Alan Smith from Red Box Design — it was late 2010 or early 2011. Bob Murray took me up to the north east to meet him for dinner and Alan kept pouring me large glasses of wine and asking me what my vision for the place was. I just spouted off some things that we’d been brainstorming.

    “But we eventually came up with seven words: accessible, aspirational, educational, rewarding, stimulating, sustainable and symbolic.

    “We wanted the National Football Centre to be somewhere people could visit, somewhere they could dream and learn something, we wanted it to be a place where time would be well spent and we wanted it to be sustainable, in every sense. What really pleases me now is that the players want to be at St George’s Park.”

    The issue of the base’s sustainability has come up, particularly at times when the FA has had to tighten its belt and shed staff. The pandemic has not been kind to anyone in professional sport, particularly those with expensive hotel and conferencing sidelines.

    The FA has tried hard to turn St George’s Park into a cash-generator but a sports medicine joint venture with Spire Healthcare did not work out and a plan for US Olympic sprinting great Michael Johnson to open a training base there never panned out.

    That said, if you want to book a room there, perhaps as a base for Burton Albion’s home League One opener against Ipswich on August 14, there are a range of rooms available from £142 to the presidential suite at £432. That will get you access to the pool and your breakfast, as well as a chance to take a picture of the infamous “Countdown to Qatar”(next year’s World Cup) clock that Ashworth installed but former FA chairman Greg Dyke thought “daft”. Southgate might have reset that clock, though, by August.

    “Look, buildings don’t win tournaments, people do,” says Sheepshanks. “But what I hope we’ve created is a place of learning, a place where best practice can be shared, somewhere you can prepare and rest.

    “And there has been no bigger supporter of St George’s Park than Gareth, going back to when he was England Under-21s manager. I’m a big believer in the idea of place-making. You can build something, but it’s up to the people who use it to define and shape the place.

    “It’s definitely been a factor in England’s recent successes but by far the biggest contribution has been made by Gareth Southgate and the incredible team he’s assembled.

    “But that team has come through St George’s Park, so it has certainly played its part.”

    Not bad for 350 acres of nothing, in the middle of nowhere.
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  6. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    #2831 BarryfromEastenders, Jul 22, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
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  7. Marcho Gamgee

    Marcho Gamgee Member+

    Apr 25, 2015
    Somewhere in English Arrogance land
    Manchester City FC
    Part 2, the article by Adam Crafton with regard to the contribution the Premier League had towards the England team.

    It now eight years since the former Football Association chairman Greg Dyke sounded the alarm.

    Dyke, a former director-general of the BBC, has long been described by colleagues as a man who “shoots from the hip”. When England drew Italy and Uruguay in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, for example, Dyke’s response was to pretend to slit his own throat. Dyke was one of the original architects of the Premier League when, as a television executive at London Weekend Television, he hosted a dinner between the then “Big Five” — Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur — as the clubs discussed a breakaway from the Football League and the launch of the Premier League.

    In 2013, then as FA chair, Dyke cautioned: “What none of us at that dinner could have foreseen was that because of the very success of the Premier League, 20 years later we would end up with a League largely owned by foreign owners, managed by foreign managers and played by foreign players and that, as a result, it could be argued that the England set-up has been weakened, rather than strengthened, by the creation of the Premier League. Saying this I am not being xenophobic but my job is to help ensure that English football and particularly the England team is in a healthy state.”

    Dyke was one of many figures within the English game who wished to impose more stringent quotas to safeguard opportunities for young English talent and the statistics did underline his concern. By the 2015-16 Premier League season, for example, homegrown players accounted for only 29.8 per cent of minutes played by top-flight footballers. By contrast, Spanish homegrown players represented 58.3 per cent of minutes played in La Liga in the same campaign.

    These numbers have improved. Last season, the Premier League homegrown minutes rose to 38 per cent yet it is true that in the 2011-12 season, the figure stood at 36.8 per cent. The number of English players operating at the top level, therefore, has not greatly improved but the quality has been enhanced.

    At the same time, the share of Italian homegrown players featuring in Serie A has dropped from 52 per cent of minutes played in 2011-12 to 35.4 per cent last season. Considering that Italy have looked rather handy at Euro 2020, it would appear a little simplistic, therefore, to suggest that broad representation in the domestic league is the be-all and end-all. It is obvious, however, that for a national team to thrive, there would need to be a considerable talent pool of players who would be described as consistent starters for the most upwardly mobile teams in the land or elsewhere on the continent.

    For decades, the Premier League and the FA appeared to be at war. The interests of growing the most viewed domestic league in world football did not always appear compatible with the objective of developing a successful national team. The two organisations saw themselves as being in competition. One Premier League executive recalls how they came to believe the FA man-marked the Premier League. He recalls: “If we came up with an idea for an innovation, report or review, they’d announce a variation of the same one a few months later.”

    Before Dyke made his speech in 2013, he did not forewarn the then Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore, much to the angst of some of those at the FA who sought to foster warmer relations with the Premier League. The content of his landmark speech was at times brutal. He pointed out that 69 per cent of starters in Premier League games in 1992-93 were English, compared to 32 per cent 20 years down the line.

    Dyke, the former FA chairman, and Premier League chairman Scudamore in 2015 (Photo: The FA/The FA via Getty Images)
    He cited how England had defeated Scotland 6-0 in an under-21’s game two weeks earlier but only three of the players from that England squad started the following Premier League weekend. He also highlighted how England had 1,161 coaches at UEFA A level compared with 12,720 in Spain and 5,500 in Germany. At Pro Licence, the figure stood at 203 coaches in England, compared to 2,140 in Spain and more than 1,000 in Germany.

    Six years earlier, the Professional Footballers’ Association released a report entitled “Meltdown”, criticising a “crisis at the heart of the English game” and highlighting how, between 1992 and 2007, 120 English players from academies had made debuts in the Premier League, compared to 617 players from overseas.

    Within the Premier League, it became a running joke that “FA comms 101” constituted blaming any England failure on the domestic product. For Scudamore, the long-serving chairman, a major point of inflection arrived at Wembley in November 2007as England lost at home against Croatia in a European Championship qualifying fixture. He hosted a Premier League hospitality box that evening, featuring guests from the Labour government such as the now Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, as well as James Purnell, the then secretary of state for culture, media and sport. Those present on the night recall “a depression” that gripped the group. They sat on the balcony and watched helplessly as England failed to qualify for Euro 2008. The Daily Mail labelled Steve McClaren the “wally with a brolly” the following morning.

    In the Premier League box, Scudamore resolved to act. A witness recalls: “He basically turned round and said he was not having it anymore. He wanted to remove all the excuses as to why the FA or England failed. He knew that if the Premier League could produce a system with better homegrown players, then it would remove one of the biggest charges against him. That’s when he started thinking how to do it.”

    A revolution would not be straightforward. The Premier League hired Ged Roddy, who had previously worked as the director of sport at the University of Bath. The Elite Player Performance Plan sought to reinvent academy football. It professionalised youth set-ups, recruitment processes, child welfare and increased the number of contact hours between players and their coaches.

    Roddy conceived plans with Chelsea’s head of youth development Neil Bath. He secured approval from Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, although Premier League sources do recall senior United figures “harrumphing” their way through parts of the process. Some major clubs, particularly those with positive records on producing young players, did not want to be lectured by outsiders. Lower down the chain, sources recall a backlash as academies were categorised from one to four and not everyone could be in the top bracket.

    “In essence,” a former Premier League academy boss recalls, “You had to go from running a centre of excellence with three to four people to running a Category One academy with 20 mandatory full time members of staff. The accountants did not love the cost.”

    There was resentment, too, in the Football League, as Premier League clubs adopted a brutal approach, threatening to withhold solidarity payments from television deals if the smaller clubs refused to back the plan. EFL clubs opposed the plan as the programme limited the price that young players could be sold for, although the compensation system is under review.

    While the plan was not without contention, the true value came in the data. For the first time, the Premier League had a central hub, called the Performance Management Application, where everything could be recorded from academy football. This would include line-ups, minutes played, the position a player has experienced, the injuries picked up and behavioural feedback. It informed decisions when clubs came to release and retain players but also highlighted the positions in which England were struggling to develop players (there had been a panic, for example, over the failure to produce No 10s) and it also offered an evidence-based approach for justifying medical research into certain injuries.

    The FA, meanwhile, needed to get their own house in order. Dan Ashworth was appointed as technical director, while Gareth Southgate was named as head of elite development. Southgate was part of a group travelling the country and convincing grassroots club to introduce smaller-sided games more focused on developing technical players.

    A new training base, St George’s Park, opened in 2012 as a national centre and in 2014, the FA unveiled the “England DNA”. It was not overly heavy on detail, but it set out core principles off the field and an aim on the field to “dominate possession intelligently”, “regain possession as early and efficiently as possible” and “play with tactical flexibility”. In layman’s terms, this means pass the ball, win the ball and cope in different formations, which does not seem overly complicated, but the public document was intentionally light as the FA did not wish to reveal all of their methods to rivals.

    One former FA employee recalls: “It was slaughtered. Journalists said it was grey men in grey suits with a grey plan; but they were wrong. It was how you play, how you train. Kids went up the age groups with a progressive plan to develop.

    “One day, we had a conference and people from grassroots game were invited to critique it. It was not elitist, we wanted everyone to understand and have a say. You cannot underestimate St. Georges’ Park. People moan where it is in the countryside but it’s not just about the pitches and a hotel. It’s the culture; the people you bump into — you can’t walk across the building without bumping into 30 people from clubs. We had a coaches room created by Dave Reddin, the performance director, and everyone went in there for a cup of coffee. It sounds so simple but the canteen was buzzing all day, every day. This was coach education, sport science, performance analysis, sharing ideas. People would be in the bar at 11pm still talking football.”

    The FA did something else, too, which attracted big headlines. When Club England managing director Adrian Bevington first met with Dyke before the chairman started his role in 2013, he brought a crib sheet to the meeting at the British Film Institute. One of his notes suggested England should have a target within the same decade. Dyke took up the mantle in his September 2013 speech, setting a semi-final objective for Euro 2020 and then the goal of winning the World Cup in 2022. A clock was put in the coaches’ room, counting down to the final in Qatar.

    The combined reinvention of club academies and the international set-up represented a marked change in FA-Premier League relations. After all, 17 of England’s Euro 2020 squad are aged 26 or below, and many have benefited from the changes driven by EPPP and the FA. The system produced. In 2017, England won the under-17 World Cup, featuring Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho, and also lifted the under-20 World Cup. The under-19 team won the European Championship.

    There is a temptation, therefore, to frame England’s Euro 2020 success around structural changes, as vindication for a grand plan.

    Such conclusions do evade certain truisms. Opportunities for English players have not exponentially increased over the past decade, while success at the highest level of football is rarely linear and is dependant on a significant degree of happenstance.

    Even in the 2020-21 season, representation of English players at the highest level remained behind Spain and France. Consider, for example, that 126 Frenchmen played minutes in the group stage of the Champions League or Europa League last season, compared to 119 from Spain. For England, the figure is 73, but the 40 Englishmen playing Europa League football has doubled compared to five years ago but only risen by a total of seven in the Champions League. Yet there were 10 English starters in the 2008 Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea compared to six in the 2021 all-English final between Manchester City and Chelsea.

    What we do know, however, is that the English Premier League is now highly competitive. Only Manchester City have defended the title since 2009 — and they have done so only once — and English football has attracted the world’s most talented coaches in Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino, Marcelo Bielsa, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho in recent times, not to mention the global talent that has trained alongside English players.

    The fingerprints of Guardiola’s City can be seen in the improvements made by Kyle Walker, John Stones and Raheem Sterling, who have been so fundamental to the tactical flexibility of this England team.

    Walker and Foden have thrived for England thanks to the coaching of Guardiola at City (Photo: Joachim Bywaletz/BSR Agency/Getty Images)
    Kalvin Phillips has undergone a transformation under Bielsa at Leeds, benefiting from weekly one-on-one analysis sessions and a meticulous approach to fitness that has elevated Phillips to one of the outstanding midfielders in Europe.

    There was a point during Pochettino’s period at Tottenham where 17 of the previous 21 England debutants had played at some point under his guidance at Southampton or Spurs.

    Tuchel enhanced Mason Mount’s tactical understanding in a short space of time and introduced Reece James to the right of a central defensive three. At Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have his critics, but the manner in which has revitalised Luke Shaw and developed Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford is of obvious present and future value to the England setup. Shaw still looks back on the lengths Pochettino explored in order to maximise his performance at Southampton. Concerned by Shaw’s diet, Pochettino personally made his teenage full-back a vegetable smoothie each morning. At 5pm, he brought Shaw back for personal training, sometimes running, sometimes just playing football-tennis with a player he would call “my son”.

    This is not to say the picture has always appeared rosy. Chelsea and Manchester City have spent a combined £3.3 billion since their clubs were taken over in 2003 and 2008 and both clubs have made huge investments in youth development. This has not always been clear on the field of play. City have produced only one first-team star, in Foden, while Chelsea took an awfully long time to secure first-team opportunities for academy prospects. Yet behind the scenes, the ambition and wealth of Chelsea and City, in terms of facilities, coaching and recruitment, fuelled an arms race that raised standards across the board.

    This week, a former senior Manchester City employee shared a memory with The Athletic from an early meeting at a hotel between chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, chief executive Gary Cook and football administrator Brian Marwood following Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of the club.

    He recalled: “We were discussing transfer targets. This was the period where City were signing real star names like Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure. Then we got onto youth players and I will always remember how Khaldoon sat up and said ‘Here is the interesting bit’. He got a real buzz out of it. It was not just about buying the best; he was genuinely interested in players coming through the system, he wanted to know the names of players impressing and checked in on their progress. He knew that developing homegrown players gives everyone a sense of pride.”

    Equally, Chelsea owner Abramovich has been known to attend FA Youth Cup finals. Some readers may greet these anecdotes with a roll of their eyes and they can make their own conclusions over just how personally invested these owners truly are in their young players.

    Yet many narratives presented to explain England’s success have holes and flaws. As ever, victory will have many fathers, while failure is an orphan.

    The FA’s design had bumps in the road. The English FA had a grand plan unveiled in 2013, yet appointed Sam Allardyce in 2016. Many within the FA felt his style of football was incompatible with the “English DNA” and his faith in English talent was such that he asked the FA to apply to FIFA and see whether his former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Steven N’Zonzi could qualify to register for the England squad. Southgate, the cultural architect of England’s success, stumbled into this job only when Allardyce was undone by a newspaper investigation.

    Premier League clubs are praised for their academies yet it remains extremely hard going to break into an elite setup. Sancho, for example, felt he needed to leave Manchester City and play abroad with Borussia Dortmund to realise his potential as a teenager. Chelsea can now bask in the reflected glory of Mount and James but a transfer ban provoked the club into a situation whey needed to embrace youth products.

    Even those who star with England have encountered peculiar times. Stones has excelled at Euro 2020 after a superb season but it is unlikely he would have made the starting line-up had this tournament occurred a year earlier, as he appeared to be losing his way under Guardiola. Stones’ own trajectory was not entirely clear or linear through the system.

    At Barnsley, he would sometimes play as a right-wing back and when Everton first signed him in January 2013, he did not play a Premier League minute under David Moyes. When Roberto Martinez took over the same summer, the Spanish coach received an internal club report that designated Stones as the club’s fourth-choice right-back, behind Tony Hibbert, Seamus Coleman and Tyias Browning. Fortunately for Stones, Martinez’s chief scout Kevin Reeves had identified Stones as a potentially world-class centre-half when monitoring him at their previous club Wigan Athletic and Martinez soon placed him into that position. Most players have their own sliding doors moments. Southgate, too.

    Yet perhaps more accidents were always likely to go in England’s favour once the FA and Premier League came to understand the potential of design.

    (Top photo: Shaun Botterill – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images
  8. AJ123

    AJ123 Member+

    Man Utd
    Feb 17, 2018
    #2833 AJ123, Jul 29, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
    Interesting looking at Arsenal's transfer policy in this window, White, Ramsdale and Maddison would make their XI a lot more English than we're used to. It would be great if they signed Tammy as well. United always have strong English representation but adding Sancho and Trippier will make it more so. If City can add Kane and Grealish they could feasibly be starting some big games with Walker, Stones, Foden, Kane, Grealish and Sterling on the pitch which I think would be unheard of since they've been a top club side. I guess Chelsea will only be a few faces again in contrast with only Mount and Chilwell likely to start most games and with Liverpool in a similar position. Joe Gomez has serious comeptition for his spot now although him and Konate will probably spend more time talking to each other in the treatment room.
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  9. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    Tottenham is going to be an important team to follow too. New coach and I am not sure what to expect. Winks and Dier might be gone. Sessegnon and Skipp might get a chance.

    Same with Leicester. Both teams in the new Europa League. The competition that gave Kane his chance to make Spurs’ first team.
    hussar repped this.
  10. Marcho Gamgee

    Marcho Gamgee Member+

    Apr 25, 2015
    Somewhere in English Arrogance land
    Manchester City FC
    BarryfromEastenders repped this.
  11. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    Harvey Elliott playing this deeper role again for Liverpool in pre-season. A few news outlets saying Klopp has rejected loan moves and wants him in and around the first team.
  12. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    Fascinating to see what the coaches do with some of these 2002/2003 players.

    Promote the 2003’s to the U21’s or try to keep an U19 squad together for a while longer? Colwill, Delap and Harvey Elliott could potentially make the U21 squad straight away.
  13. TopBanana10

    TopBanana10 Member+

    Sep 8, 2018
    All three should probably be with the U21s especially Elliott. If Delap hits the ground running at Stoke then he leapfrogs Brewster for me. No point in holding players back.
    BarryfromEastenders repped this.
  14. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    Elliott probably has the toughest competition though. Not certain what they do with him unless he’s getting game time with Liverpool.

    There are quite a few that could replace Delap at U19 level. So bringing him up provides opportunities there. The nagging worry of promoting him means we don’t pick Balogun at all. Can’t risk that so early in a new campaign.

    Colwill’s loan has really opened things up for him. Looks like he could become a squad member. Only issue is that he would be a guaranteed starter at U19 level.
  15. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    Garibaldi11, roverman and TopBanana10 repped this.
  16. TopBanana10

    TopBanana10 Member+

    Sep 8, 2018
    Perhaps makes more sense than battling with Lamptey.
  17. JTay

    JTay Member

    Apr 27, 2019
    If Balogun isn't picked he'll play for the USA anyway, personally feel he probably will anyway.
  18. Gaz811

    Gaz811 Member+

    Everton FC
    Oct 15, 2018
    Lampteys still injured.
  19. JTay

    JTay Member

    Apr 27, 2019
    Think Southampton could be the perfect team for him, not 100% sure he's ready for regular first team football, but he's definitely more talented than Walker-Peters.
  20. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    Who knows. I think he should be selected in this squad to start off the campaign.
  21. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    ChristianSur repped this.
  22. TopBanana10

    TopBanana10 Member+

    Sep 8, 2018
    Have they been playing him as a 6?
  23. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    Don’t know. Not seen any of the Arsenal pre-season games.
  24. thebigman

    thebigman Member+

    May 25, 2006
    Arsenal FC
    Nat'l Team:
    Yeah he’s a 6
  25. BarryfromEastenders

    Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    Garibaldi11 repped this.

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