How is Brexit actually going to affect English football ?

Only 2 days ago did i publish my last blog on England and their vast amount of young talent- but how it could go to waste. According to some (Ferguson, Gerrard and some revered journalists), Brexit- a word that literally makes your shoulders sag and eyes loll- may actually have a positive effect on English football and promoting player development. Others, though, (Gareth Southgate, and Matthew Syed ) disagree to the extent that it’s consequences will be alarmingly contradictory.

For those who haven’t been following the football news recently, due to the political context of Brexit, the FA will be forced to strike a deal with the Premier League whereby all foreign imports who get a contract with a Premier League will be given a work permit (technically known as a Governing Body Endorsement). Theresa May Makes EU StatementIn return, the Premier League will reduce the quota on foreign players for each club from 17 to 12 players out of the theoretical 25 man squad. If the deal fails to materialise, EU players will have to fulfil the same criteria as non-EU players do now in order to get a work permit. This criteria includes Fifa ranking of country, fee size and amount of international caps- which would have particularly serious ramifications on the smaller, poorer clubs who can’t afford the stars. The FA hopes that that this deal will boost the number of homegrown talent without diluting the quality of the Premier League.

A fantastic opportunity

The Premier League has an “awful lot of bog-standard foreign players,” said Greg Dyke in 2015, the then chairman of the FA. He speaks for the people. A lingering concern of English football fans is that we are hindering the progress of our young players by stockpiling foreign import. At the Manchester Derby at the weekend only 1 Mancunian started the game: Marcus Rashford. 2 weekends prior, only 28% of players playing in the Premier League were English. ThierryA staggering statistic. Our typical English bemoaning may appear ungrateful given that ever since the 1995 Bosman ruling, which lifted the cap on foreign players across Europes leagues, they have revolutionised English football and changed the face of the Premier League. It wouldn’t be the best league in the world had Zola not departed Parma to teach us what a No.10 was, or if Henry hadn’t rebranded the role of a lone striker, or had Ronaldo not kickstarted the inverted winger trend. As a result, one could argue that limiting these foreign players will reduce the competitiveness of Premier League clubs in Europe and the general appeal of the league?  But is that really the case ? Nobody wants to ban foreign players as a whole but are Danilo, Elaquim Mangala, Davide Zappacosta, Divock Origi and Victor Wanyama really adding anything to our league or just making up the numbers and welcoming the high salaries? Surely it would be rather more beneficial to give Phil Foden, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Rhian Brewster some solid minutes ? Exposure to regular first team football will no doubt accentuate development. The proposal would also improve the quality of other, smaller leagues whose star players are regularly pinched, enticed by the riches- only to sit on the bench, talent marginalised. One thinks of Alexander Sorloth (Starring for Midtjylland in Denmark, now on the bench at Palace), Jurgen Locadia (Once flourishing at PSV, now languishing at Brighton), or Ramadan Sobhi (once lighting up Egyptian football, now rotting at Huddersfield). Though Not that the FA is the slightest bit concerned in them.

Getting fat on paydays 

Humans thrive when competition is at it’s fiercest. Fact. And this simple platitude represents the basis of anti-quota supporters such as Matthew Syed who recently wrote a column on this topic in The Times. Between 1968 and 1992- the days of POMO, ‘get it in the mixer’, and foreign-aversion, England reached the quarter-finals at major tournaments 4 out of 13 attempts. From 1998-2018- the Premier League’s international revolution we have reached the quarter finals in 5 out of 11 attempts and currently find ourselves getting sick of saying “a future star”. It is evident that this extra competition is motivating our players to fight for their position. And regular exposure to la creme de la creme is bound to raise self-standards. Dom.jpgThe Lawn Tennis Association tested a similar proposal to the FA. It failed drastically. When guaranteed a place at Wimbledon, homegrown players did not acclimatise to to the big occasion, or “skill up”, they lost the desire, the purpose, and got fat on paydays in the sun. Syed’s point is valid- but too blunt. He doesn’t take into account the agonising stories of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Dominic Solanke.  It is not as simple anymore as “as long as your good enough, you’ll make it to the top”. No, young players are becoming victims of the pressure on managers for instant success. It is an inevitable burden for the best league in the world. And it is insidious. Transfer expenditure in the Premier League has risen every year from 2010 to 2017 where it reached £1.4bn. And even so, this summer saw Fulham pay a whopping £132m on new players (3rd most in Europe)- unprecedented for a promoted side.  Meanwhile, relegation favourites Huddersfield have completely ditched their academy. There comes a point when enough is enough.





England must not waste this golden opportunity

Football in England hasn’t felt this exciting for a long time. 2018 has seen World Cup euphoria, an overwhelming wave of new talent, the illumination of model-manager Southgate, but most importantly the collaborative stride for greater improvement and success. This desire is becoming a defining aspect of modern football. RaheemTake Mourinho and Guardiola. Think of their contrasting demeanours and aspirations, but then of their different league positions. Although not yet the finished article, England are quickly becoming the model 2018 international team. Fresh tactics, fresh faces, fresh love. 50 years of hurt may be coming to an end.

Selfless Southgate

Southgate is not a revolutionary. The shift from the ‘proper football man’ to the compassionate, caring but meticulous geek has been a gradual one- dating back to the start of Arsène Wenger’s illustrious, revolutionary reign. No longer is player-deprecation a common practicality. No longer is it fashionable to dismiss sports science and technology, or get blind drunk on a Friday as long as your ‘up and at em’ the next day as ‘they don’t fancy it’. Southgate embodies the responsibilities of a modern day manager.

He has a magnificent connection with the young players ,which is partly down to his 3 year spell as Under-21’s manager, but also respects the old guard- most recently by allowing the Rooney testimonial. There is no dogmatism towards a certain style of football but he is tactically in touch as we have seen with the recent formation switch up (Check Below). One may estimate that, due to his constant studying,  Southgate is pretentious at times- one couldn’t be further from the truth. He will listen to the players and ask them questions as he knows that they possess important, first-hand knowledge which he doesn’t. But most signifcantly, he is a warm-hearted, down to earth, caring human being who makes a legitimate effort to bond with his team and their fans. Danny Rose spoke of how England were his salvation during a difficult spell of depression and the succour offered by Southgate. SouthgateThere is a real camaraderie : No club division, just some fun with mates…on inflatable unicorns in the pool. However the highlight of Southgate’s compassion came at a time of great euphoria. In fact, it wouldn’t have crossed many peoples minds to, in the aftermath of a revolutionary penalty-shootout victory, run over to the opposition and console the unfortunate scapegoat in Carlos Bacca and Mateus Uribe. Southgate knows how it feels. Memories of 96 still sting with a passion.

We speak of Southgate as an angel, and an immortal, a god. When in reality he is just a normal, well-moralled man from Crawley who has his flaws just like all of us. But he has achieved something unique for England. He has given us back our identity, and reignited our love. Something that can take you a long way in football.

Exciting youngsters need game time to fulfil potential

It becomes all too easy in the world of football to get caught up in the moment and make outlandish statements. “It’s our year this year”, “I have never seen a better player” or “This season is gearing up to be the best in decades”. When in reality, it is unjustified, false hope. But, although this may seem hyprocital, there have been myriad records broken in 2018  for English Football.  Some statistical, some objective admittedly. Yet when has there ever been 11 teams expecting promotion in the Championship ?  When has there ever been a more dominant Premier League side than Man City ? Statistically, never. And has there been more young, English talent since the golden generation of 2006 ? I highly doubt it. Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount, Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Maddison, Ryan Sessegnon, Harry Winks, Ruben Loftus-CheelBen Chilwell and Joe Gomez are all spoken extremely highly of and have frightening potential. However, equally as talented are : Morgan Gibbs-White, Aaron Wan Bissaka, Emil Smith-Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Demarai Gray, Ademola Lookman, Lewis Cook, Freddie Woodman, Domanic Solanke, Tom Davies, Harvey Barnes, Rhian Brewster and the list just goes on and on and on. Rashford“He is one special talent” is becoming an irritating platitude. The difference between these youngsters is that some are consistently exposed to a high level of football, whereas others are languishing on the bench. Southgate has established the rule that in order to warrant an England call up one must be playing regular, first division football. Some are already proving their worth at English’s elite, some are doing so alongside English’s elite, while others have sought opportunities abroad- particularly in Germany which is renowned for it’s player-development. But the common denominator is that they all have the potential to play for Europe’s heavyweights- a thigh rubbing prospect for us England fans. A prospect that has not been achieved with a click of the fingers, but through 6 years of endeavour at St Georges that is finally paying off. Dan Ashworth, the Technical Director, has done so much work behind the scenes in forging a winning culture and a positive vibe emanating throughout all England’s age groups, and a citadel of excellence in St Georges Park. A citadel of excellence where the senior players can be seen playing video games with the children to reverberate that English spirit, and where the first team are given the same instructions as the Under 10’s to ensure that everybody is on the same length and playing positive, modern football. “Courage” is Southgates buzzword. Playing out from the back and pressing from the front. And in the quest to find the new Gazza: courage to make mistakes. Young players are now encouraged to try those flicks, to attempt that through ball, to beat that man. It has payed off. But we must remember that the aforementioned ‘prospect’ is only a ‘prospect’. Southgate and whoever Ashworth’s successor is need to do all they can to ensure that their creations are playing consistently, week in-week out. France left out Benzema, Lacazette, Laporte and Martial but still won the World Cup- England may also soon find themselves pleading for 33 men rather than 23.

New tactics, formation

The 3-3-2-2 from the World Cup left the flanks exposed which Croatia at the World Cup, and Spain in the Nations League took advantage of (both of which used 433 formations which are particularly problematic because of the flying fullbacks). Lingard and Alli aren’t disciplined enough to fill in alongside the flanks and when the ball did go beyond Trippier- often due to his defensive problems-  and they were there to cover, it left few bodies in the middle of the park- where England were overrun. The channels themselves were bombarded against Spain with their flying fullbacks due to this lack of cover. Sitting back and absorbing pressure didn’t suit our personnel. Alli and Lingard are not by any means defensive players, and Kieran Trippier is renowned for his work up the other end. The new 4-3-3 formation not only supplies more midfield solidity, but also incorporates key personnel and an attacking midfielder who can link play. Alli, Maddison and Barkley could all play that roll. Here is England’s best 11 for me :


Shaw                         Stones                                    Maguire                            Walker

Winks                     Dier                              Alli

Sterling                                           Kane                                        Lingard

Areas to improve

Enough eulogising, England have a long way to go before they can start considering themselves contenders for any silverware. I have already briefly mentioned England’s pressing game- similar to Liverpool- but when under the cosh it slowly faded. Whether it is fitness or mental strength i don’t know, but Southgate must go over it.

England have to keep possession better. Two ball playing centre backs highlight Southgate’s ethos, but England will struggle in the deep heat of Quatar if they try and keep the ball like they did in Russia. Perhaps, playing Lingard- a winger by all accounts- in the midfield wasn’t conducive to fluidity, or maybe it was fear. 50 years of hurt is bound to provoke irrational criticism from the media, which is off-putting for the players. However, after a successful World Cup where England made an effort to bond with the press through bowling and darts, the relationship appears to be in a state of convalescence.