England’s Youth In Crisis – An Infographic Investigation

So where exactly does the source of the problem with the Premier League youth team set ups lie? As the first graph shows, it cant really be said that there are not enough English boys in the youth teams.

Perhaps its a matter of quality over quantity. Are the Premier League teams not raising enough English world beaters? The second graph suggests we are not doing too badly. It shows the English players who were in Premier League squads last season that had been with their team since their teenage years.

Brief calculations seem quite worrying – on average, only three players per team were English lads that had been blooded into the game at their clubs whilst in their teens. However, a brief look at other countries national teams takes the edge off. Only 6 members of the current German squad had been with their current club since youth level, in Spain the number is 9. The England squad contains 7. It could be suggested that with a big enough talent pool, diamonds in the rough are easier to find. So we have the talent pool and that pool has yielded a fair number of quality players.

Maybe the problem, then, is not a matter of quantity or quality. Maybe the problem is the quantity of quality. The third graph looks at the number of youth players the Premier League teams promoted to the first team for the 2013/14 season compared to the number of players they released by either sale, free transfer or termination of contract. And the figures make grim reading for the youth.

On average, just under 1 player per club was promoted to the first team. Meanwhile the average number of players released per team was 5.  This is perhaps an indication that the current crop of youth players being trained up are just not to the standard. This is not how Greg Dyke and his chosen influencers see it:

“Now some of the youth team coaches I have met argue we do have the kids with the potential to be top class players but their argument is that not enough of them get a chance in the Premier League because it’s so much easier to sign someone from overseas rather than give the kid from the youth team or the reserves a chance.

I was interested to read Gary Neville’s view recently when he said “I’ve always felt the cream would rise to the top but I’m not quite so sure any more. I’m no longer sure that if a player is good enough he will have a chance of getting through.” If Gary is right who knows what talent the England team is missing out on?”

This all sounds a little far-fetched. To suggest that Premier League managers and coaches would prefer to invest in foreign players that must be scouted and paid for at exorbitant prices than promote their own youth players who are of equal quality is to put into question the abilities of those managers and coaches.

What is more likely is that the youth players are not up to the level of Premier League football. And with the kinds of pressures that a Premier League manager now faces who can blame them for wanting to bring in the best players they can get. And isn’t that exactly how it should be?

That is the beauty of competition. Surely we need players that can compete every week in the Premier League in our national team. What purpose will it serve to allow concessions for average youth players to participate in first team football? How will this improve the quality of English youth? What kind of lesson is that to be teaching them? What makes more sense is to have better foreign players in the league as competition for our young players, make them work harder and earn a place in the first team. Only then will we have true world beaters available for an international call up.

For an example of this in action, we need look no further than one of the incidents that started this investigation – England’s U21 failed European Championship campaign. There were some notable exclusions from the U21 squad in Israel this summer. Jack Wishere, Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had all been baggsied by the England first team to participate in their own dalliances. Whether they should have been used at the U21 level is a contentious issue but the fact is that they are all young English players that fought tooth and nail to gain a place in their clubs first team last season ahead of strong foreign competition. And had they chosen to compete in Israel, would we even be having this conversation?

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