Euro 2008 is coming up, and predictably, with England not in it, the spotlight has once again come down on the perceived lack of English players in the Premiership. In an article which shows just how statistics can be warped, the BBC claims a ‘dramatic slide’ in those available to Capello.
They begin the article with a graph, showing how the number of English starters has changed over the last eight years. Here it is:
Looks pretty dramatic, doesn’t it? Except when you look closely, you’ll notice that there only appears to be a big drop because of the scale used, with the number of players only ranging from 160 to 208 on the axis. I distinctly remember being taught at school that graphs should not be exaggerated in this way.
But let’s look at the numbers. Five years ago, the number of English starters was 179. This season, 170. Hardly a dramatic drop, nine players in five years. In fact, this year’s drop comes off the back of four years of climbing, despite what the Daily Mail would tell you about ‘forriners taking ah jobs’.
All this completely misses the point. 170 English players is plenty, Capello needs a small fraction of those. It doesn’t matter if there used to be 500 (there never were, incidentally), it isn’t the best players that are missing out, it is those that were never good enough to get near the national side anyway. Those that remain should benefit from playing with quality rather than substandard leftovers.
For England to be successful, the top twenty or so need to be of a high quality, and performing as a team. The former is aptly demonstrated by the fact that there were ten English players in the Champions League final, and the latter is Capello’s job.
There are no excuses. If England fail, it is not the fault of the clubs, it is the fault of the players (who are good enough), and the management team. No-one else.