x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

English Premier League fame is also England's bane

Research cites only 35 qualified players under 21 years of age played in the top flight and clubs are not developing local talent.

Norwich City, in yellow and green, played 14 English-born players last season in the Premier League out of the 27 players they used. Nigel Roddis / Reuters
Norwich City, in yellow and green, played 14 English-born players last season in the Premier League out of the 27 players they used. Nigel Roddis / Reuters

LONDON // The England national team is paying a heavy price for the commercial success of the English Premier League, the former England manager Graham Taylor told the BBC yesterday.

Taylor, who had an unsuccessful spell as England manager from 1990-93, said the majority of the money pouring into the clubs in the Premier League was not being spent on signing English talent, but the top foreign players.

Taylor said this has an obvious impact on the national team, which has not reached a major semi-final since the Euro 1996 tournament and lower down, such as the Under 21 side, which crashed out of the ongoing European championships at the group stage. Taylor's claims are backed up by research showing the playing time of English players under the age of 21 in the Premier League has fallen to its lowest level.

According to new research by the CIES Football Observatory, only 35 England-qualified players younger than 21 made appearances in the Premier League last season.

Taylor, who made his name as manager of Watford in the 1980s, said he did not expect the favourite for the Manchester City managerial post, Manuel Pellegrini, to invest any money in English players.

City do, however, have a nucleus of English talent in the goalkeeper Joe Hart, the midfielder James Milner and the veteran duo of Joleon Lescott, the centre-back, and Gareth Barry, the midfielder, although two of them could well leave the club in the close season.

"If Manuel Pellegrini comes in, I'll be amazed if he signs an English player," said Taylor, 68.

"Commercially, the Premier League has been a major success, but at the expense of English players. I think we have all seen this coming. We have got this tremendous amount of money that has now come into football.

"It means the top four or five clubs are not looking for the best players in England, but the best players in the world because they can afford to buy them."

Taylor's words echoed those of the outgoing Football Association chairman David Bernstein, who last week said he believes there is a "desperate need" to increase the number of English players in the Premier League.

He said only 30 per cent of players in the top flight were eligible for England, compared to more than 50 per cent in Germany.

An exception to the rule in the Premier League were Norwich, who selected 14 English players out of the 27 they used last season, the joint-highest percentage in the Premier League, and they also won this year's FA Youth Cup.

"It is important to have a core of English players," said Norwich manager Chris Hughton. "We have a philosophy of trying to bring through the best young players."

However, Hughton, whose side flirted with relegation before finishing 11th last season, said he believed the Premier League was trying to do its best. "The Premier League and the academies are working very hard and there are more people trying to get the coaching badges required," he said. "We are making great strides that way."

* Reuters