The Scottish game from the Borders to the Highlands & Islands and beyond
If England fans can hear a rustling from north of the border, it may be Scotland fans rubbing their hands, says Craig Anderson...
Fabio Capello has drafted some new faces into his England squad for their friendly with France this week, with the selection of Cardiff City's Jay Bothroyd raising the most eyebrows. While Capello fancies trying something new with his squad, could this be indicative of England's gradual decline?
With so many foreign players arriving to play in the cash-laden Premier League, young English players are finding their route to stardom in the top flight blocked as chairmen always look abroad for a quicker, cheaper fix instead of giving local youngsters a chance to be blooded; even when clubs give kids a chance, they often tend to be recruited from a global network.
Capello's most recent selection has caused much debate and it's important to remember that the game with France is only a friendly, so there is certainly licence to experiment and add new faces with minimal risk. However could this be the start of a new and perhaps somewhat troubling route for the English team?
You only need to look north of the border to see how an overkill of foreign players has hampered the development of young players – something which has taken the Scots years to even begin to recover from. Years of cheap foreign imports have ultimately proved detrimental to the national side and Scotland have now gone 12 years without gracing the finals of an international tournament.
When Craig Levein picks a squad, outwith the SPL and a few faces playing in the English Premier League, a lot of those selected play in the Championship. Long gone are the days when players that played for the top clubs south of the border were picked and became cornerstones of the team.
It’s early days yet, but what’s happening with the England team is exactly what happened to Scotland over the last two decades, and as the cost of English players continues to rocket in a way totally out of kilter with the rest of Europe, clubs in the Premier League will continue to be forced into shopping abroad.
Regardless of this, Bothroyd is in the squad on merit, having already scored 13 goals in the Championship this season, but England fans should worry that there is evidently so little emerging talent in the Premier League ready to burst on to the international scene.
There are a few that have stepped up, with Jordan Henderson, Kieran Gibbs and Andy Carroll all set to start against France tomorrow, but a steady progression has been few and far between. Bear in mind, England’s squad at the World Cup in South Africa was the oldest of the 32 squads, with an average age of 28.7 years.
Since the summer, Jack Wilshere’s good early-season form for Arsenal has seen him come through into the senior ranks, although he will miss tomorrow's match through injury; Milner has made the transition well, while Adam Johnson looks an exciting prospect, but has had little game time of late for Manchester City. Other than that, Capello has still been reliant on the old guard when it comes to the qualifiers.
That said, giving younger players like Chris Smalling and Jordan Henderson call-ups is interesting, particularly when Newcastle’s Kevin Nolan and Matthew Jarvis of Wolves have been outstanding for their respective clubs and are arguably more worthy of a shout. Of course, it’s always difficult to understand Capello’s thinking.
But including Championship players, while merely experimental for the time being, is a road England may be forced to go down more regularly as long as the decent English talent is being pushed down the leagues at the expense of players brought in from overseas. Bothroyd, for example, found his chances at his first club Arsenal restricted by the likes of Christopher Wreh.
The FA are trying to identify the internationals of tomorrow, finally getting behind the Burton centre of excellence. But the clubs are constantly looking at the short-term option and not enough English players are coming through, stifling the progress of the national team.
Unfortunately this leaves Capello’s hands tied. It’s a precarious time for the England coach as he tries to bounce back from the disappointment of the World Cup, so every move he makes is being scrutinised in the run-up to Euro 2012.
He's not being helped by the clubs, who are naturally putting their own short-term interests way ahead of the development of the national game. Money is the root of all evil, they say, so England will do well to realise that as long as the Premier League continues to spend its way to world domination, it’s doing so at the expense of a national team already failing to meet its absurdly high expectations.
While Bothroyd is likely to be merely a short-term option, it’s very possible he won’t be the last England squad member to be called from the below the top flight.
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