A study by the CIES Football Observatory has revealed that only 11.7% of top flight players in England graduated from their club’s academy.
It isn’t like this is a new problem either with a similar study from last year showing that only 13.8% of top flight players graduated from their club academy.
This comes as a worrying statistic for Premier League fans, however it goes some way towards making England’s failure at International level fairly self-explanatory. There remains a serious lack of players with the potential to become stars being produced by the youth system as well as a shortage of opportunities for graduates to stake a claim for a place in their club’s first team. This is contrasted by the level of quality being produced by youth players across the rest of Europe, evidenced by the regular success of the likes of Germany, Italy and Spain at National competitions.
While the other European Leagues have earned plaudits for the tactical excellence and flair on display over the past few years, England’s top flight could always fall back on the sheer fight and physicality that made it supposedly the toughest and most unique league in the world. This aspect to English football is failing us at the moment and is exposing the weak youth systems in place.
Can the Premier League still be considered the best league in the world? I’m not sure it can. As the millionaire owners continue to buy England’s top clubs, the influx of foreign players also continues. This is undoubtedly proving to restrict the development of youngsters in this country and is coming to a stage where so many highly rated academy players are failing to fulfil their potential as a result of simple neglect, resulting in many falling to the lower tiers of English football.
Alternatively, a defence can be made for the reality that the standard of young club-trained players isn’t good enough at the moment. Manchester United’s Class of 92, Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard and the rise of Premier League stars discovered by West Ham a few years ago was the youth system at its best in this country. The biggest club-trained successes that springs to mind of late are perhaps Harry Kane and maybe Raheem Sterling- even they are far from being ready to compete with the best in the world.
It seems to have taken years for this country to realise the importance of ball retention, amongst other things, as evidenced by the likes of Barcelona’s dominance in recent years. There is a desperate lack of flair, grace and originality flowing through the veins of our, supposed, future stars.
Why hasn’t there also been a greater focus towards Futsal in this country? Many children across South America and Europe are brought up playing the skill based football game and are often better prepared in today’s technical game. In this generation, the skill, technique and energy within the sport should be or is already much more appreciated than the physical side, with local or historical rivalries perhaps being the exception. In contrast to the enthusiasm demonstrated by foreign football systems, England looks rigid and almost as though the players are being told what they need to develop into. There is a severe tendency for the phrases ‘you can’t’ or ‘you must’ to be thrown around, which somewhat limit the freedom of one growing into an exciting and confident individual.
You only have to look at Neymar, Messi and Ronaldo as they produce the unimaginable to realise that they did not follow conventions. It also comes down to cultural backgrounds and, despite the amount of people who play the sport in this country, it doesn’t seem to be as important an aspect to life as it does for the rest of the world.
Moreover, the amount of injuries to young English players come as another increasingly noticeable factor. The amount of time some players spend in the Physio room is ridiculous; fans can’t help but be frustrated by just how weak and frail they appear to be. Perhaps this is a result of the physical burden that comes with the aggressiveness of the Premier League. Unfortunately, it has come to the stage where England’s top teams have fallen into the trap of being unable to move away from the conventional brutality of games in this country.
For many countries, football is a way of life and many will agree that there isn’t enough impetus towards competitive sport in England’s education system. The attention towards Academia is becoming extremely unbalanced and is presenting life away from sport as the only realistic pursuit for young people.
The dream or aspiration of becoming a professional footballer is shunned far too often nowadays in this country. Schools teach students to work tirelessly towards good grades in order to, ultimately and unconsciously, compete with other students as they begin their path towards future careers and places at University. With this in mind, it is difficult to comprehend how so many schools feel it is acceptable to shy away from competitive sport and helping young people to become the best at what they do in sport. Why not start young and widen the opportunities?
Youth systems within Football across the rest of the world appear to be in better shape than that of England. We are continuously reminded of this as our Champions League sides struggle against Bayern Munich sides consisting of mainly German players, Barcelona and Real Madrid sides that could be mistaken for a Spanish National side and even less successful teams from the likes of Russia and Portugal that persist to produce and field home grown players to admirable effect.
A potentially worrying future of English football on the cards.