Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 10 December 2019

Marcus Rashford, Tammy Abraham and rarity of the Premier League home-grown striker in the past 20 years

The pair were joined by Mason Greenwood in the Manchester United-Chelsea clash, but seeing three academy products in attack in the same fixture is a collector's item

Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford scores from the penalty spot against Chelsea at Old Trafford. AFP
Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford scores from the penalty spot against Chelsea at Old Trafford. AFP

As Mason Greenwood trotted on to the Old Trafford pitch on Sunday to replace Marcus Rashford with Manchester United 4-0 up against Chelsea, it felt like a new era was beginning for both clubs.

The 17-year-old was making his fifth first-team appearance, while United were lining up with the youngest Premier League starting XI of the week with an average age of 24 years and 227 days.

Chelsea too were taking a youthful route, as Tammy Abraham made his first Premier League start at the comparatively old age of 21, and 20-year-old English midfielder Mason Mount was given his debut.

Rashford, who scored twice, Abraham and Greenwood made up a triumvirate of attacking talent that had been nurtured through the clubs' academies and into the first team - and led to what would make a wonderful, albeit incredibly difficult, quiz question: when was the last time three home-grown British strikers played for their first club in the same Premier League fixture?

Was this just an anomaly, or are we about to see a trend of British strikers making the jump from youth team to Premier League starter? History certainly isn't in their favour.

Remembering James Wilson

Prior to Rashford, who started Sunday's match wide on the left but has played centrally enough to be regarded as a striker, the previous United youngster to make it through the ranks and into the front line was James Wilson.

Now 23 and playing in Scotland for Aberdeen, Wilson burst on to the scene in 2014 with two goals on his Premier League debut against Hull City before his United career fell away. Before him there was Danny Welbeck who came in and spent a significant period in and around the first team.

The success rate for young British strikers making it to the first team at the other big Premier League clubs doesn't make for great reading if you're a budding goal-scorer.

Here's a look at those who made it beyond a handful of substitute appearances:

Arsenal: This one took a lot of research. You have to go back to the late 1980s and early 1990s when Kevin Campbell was a regular (debut 1988), while Scotsman Paul Dickov made his debut in the 1992-93 season and went on to make 22 appearances before leaving for Manchester City in 1996.

Chelsea: Like Arsenal, British strikers who have come through the youth team are almost entirely absent. Dominic Solanke, now of Bournemouth, made 1 Champions League substitute appearance in 2014 for Chelsea and has as many Premier League goals (one) as he has full England caps.

Carlton Cole was the most successful, making 25 league appearances from 2002 before joining West Ham in 2006. Before that you have to go all the way back to Mark Nicholls (not Paul Nicholls from British soap EastEnders), who played 36 league games, scoring three times between 1995 and 2001.

Everton: Victor Anichebe had a half-decent time at Goodison Park after making his debut in 2006, but is Nigerian. James Vaughan was the club's last British striker through the ranks and there were high hopes for his career. He made his debut in 2004 and scored seven Premier League goals for Everton before signing for Norwich in 2011. Wayne Rooney made his Premier League debut a couple of years earlier.

Liverpool: There are high hopes for youngster Rhian Brewster who starred for the first team in pre-season. Raheem Sterling is a worthy mention but he was signed for a sizeable fee from QPR. Then you have to go all the way back to Neil Mellor, who made a dozen first team appearances from 2002, scoring twice, as he failed to live up to the "new Michael Owen" tag. Before Mellor, there was Owen and Robbie Fowler.

30 Jun 1998: Michael Owen of England in action against Jose Chamet of Argentina during the 1998 World Cup match against Argentina played in St Etienne, France. The match finished in a 2-2 draw after extra-time and in a dramatic twist England once againlost in the penalty shoot-out 4-3. \ Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport
Michael Owen made a big impact at Liverpool after passing through the club's youth ranks. Allsport

Manchester City: The current Premier League champions had a spell over a decade ago when the British strikers were rolling off the conveyor belt. There was Ched Evans (16 league games, debut 2007), Daniel Sturridge (21 league games, debut 2006), Ishmael Miller (17 league games, debut 2006) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (32 league games, debut 2004).

Newcastle: They're remembered for some horrendous signings (Xisco, Emmanuel Riviere) rather than home-grown attacking talent in the past couple of decades. Adam Armstrong showed promise, scoring goals out on loan after making his debut in 2014, but left having made just one Premier League start. Nile Ranger played 51 times in the league from 2009, scoring twice, while Nigerian Shola Ameobi is worth a mention after more than a decade in and around the first team. The big success story however was Andy Carroll.

Tottenham: Take Harry Kane out of the list and you aren't left with much. A deep dive into the archives shows a few substitute appearances for Lee Barnard in 2006, one goal in three games for Northern Irishman Paul McVeigh in 1997 and you have to go even further back in the time machine to find Rory Allen scoring twice in the Premier League in 1996 - his only league goals for the club in 20 games.

West Ham: Has a club been through more strikers in the Premier League era? Remember Diego Tristan? Savio? Davor Suker? The last British youth team graduate to make it was Freddie Sears in 2008. He left for Colchester United in 2012 after 46 league games and two goals.

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Maguire, Pulisic, Ceballos: Premier League signings on debut

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Why are so few British strikers making it in the Premier League?

There's multiple reasons which can be used. Firstly there's the deluge of television money which has necessitated instant success for the bigger clubs. Why wait for an 18 or 19-year-old to get up to speed with top-flight football when you can tempt a ready-made player from Europe or South America with big wages?

Then there's the way the young players are being coached in the academies and the formations being utilised. Notice how managers describe attacking players as being able to "play right across the frontline".

The traditional four-four-two has largely died out and with it the big-man, little man combination upfront.

Instead, we have the 4-2-3-1 with the central striker, such as Rashford, able to play in the wide areas, or the wide players, such as Raheem Sterling, able to play in the central slot or as a deeper lying false nine. Academy sides then mirror the formation and tactics being used by the first team.

With just one place upfront up for grabs, clubs single out the best possible option from around the world rather than within the club's post code as they may have done decades ago.

Then there's the pattern of play which has changed from the more direct English-style to possession based. The foreign players were traditionally more technically accomplished and able to fit in to the style demanded by the increasing number of foreign managers in the Premier League, although the English FA has been working to improve the situation from the grassroots up.

Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba ebraces Chelsea's English striker Tammy Abraham (R) on the pitch at the final whistle in the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on August 11, 2019. Manchester United won the game 4-0. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / AFP / Oli SCARFF / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications.
Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba embraces Chelsea's English striker Tammy Abraham. AFP

Will we see the likes of Chelsea and Man United continue with the young, English attackers?

Not if Jose Mourinho was still in charge at either of his former clubs.

He was critical of new Chelsea manager Frank Lampard for fielding such an inexperienced side at Old Trafford.

“(Marcos) Alonso was on the bench, Kante was on the bench, (Olivier) Giroud was on the bench, and to come to Old Trafford, even if this is not the huge Manchester United that used to scare people, it’s Manchester United," he said while working as a pundit for Sky Sports.

“A little bit of experience would fit well with the team. You look to the performance of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and for matches of this dimension you need a little bit more,” he said.

As for United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made it clear by selling Romelu Lukaku and not replacing him that he is backing Rashford, Anthony Martial and Greenwood to handle the weight of expectation.

As the for quiz question of when the last time three home-grown British strikers played for their first club in the same Premier League fixture, answers on a postcard please.

Updated: August 13, 2019 01:43 PM

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