Monday, November 12, 2007

Logical Falsehood

I am so utterly, utterly tired of the cant about the need to restrict foreign players in England. It's nauseating when the Grand Dame of Free Trade has to resort to protectionism - worse still when it's absolutely bleedin' obvious that protectionist policies will not improve matters one whit.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that the English national team is dreadful. Truly awful. No teamwork, no imagination, no tactical nous, and - let's face it - no goalkeeper either. National teams being national teams, you can't just buy new players when the old ones aren't doing the job. You have to play the hand you are dealt.

Well, obviously, say the protectionists - there's the problem! We have too many foreigners taking up places in the Premiership, not enough spaces for good English boys. Send Johnny Foreigner packing, and the Three Lions will bring back a trophy faster than you can say "European Labour Legislation".


At face value, this is utter nonsense. It suggests that Premiership coaches (let's not say English ones) are deliberately choosing underqualified foreigners in place of better qualified domestic players. Now, given the rewards of Premiership football, it's hard to see what would tempt a coach to tempt relegation by benching good locals and playing inferior foreigners.

Could it simply be that English players aren't as good as these imports? Hmmm?

But you're missing the point, say the protectionists. If only we could get more English players some top-level playing time, they'd improve, and then they'd be better than Johnny Foreigner and we could win back a trophy. So let's legislate a minimum number of good English boys per team!

Well, quite. But presumably any half-way forward thinking coach can make a rational choice between an experienced foreign international and an up-and-coming English player and choose accordingly. The fact that there are so many foreigners suggests that perhaps England's up-and-comers aren't really all that good either.

I mean, if young English players are so almost-flipping-good why aren't they going abroad to get first division experience in foreign leagues? After all, each time a foreigner leave the Dutch or French leagues, there's a spot opening up in that league that an ambitious English player could take.

But few if any take that route. Because most English footballers would prefer making big money and sitting on the bench than playing in the big show on lower wages on the continent. Because most English footballers can't deal with leagues where vicious kickings are punished by red cards, not a quiet word from the ref.

Because deep-down, most English footballers - despite their coddled existence - possess just enough self-awareness to know that they couldn't make it anywhere else, either.

They just aren't good enough. It's because of their coaching and training and mentality, all of which are miles from world-class.

Railing against Johnny Foreigner or imposing player quotas isn't going to change that.


Anonymous Tom said...

True, my friend, but painful nonetheless.

It's not like we were dominating world football before we let all the bloody foreigners in, either.

The mistake was obviously much earlier than that, when we showed the foreigners how to play the game in the first place.

12:37 AM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

True. International football was much simpler when you could just thrash the welsh every month or two.

1:06 AM  
Blogger chris c paul said...

mostly yes.

the kind of jingoist hand wringing that goes on when England lose is terrible. If , not sure what pronoun to use, one is concerned about the future of the international game then, um, one needs to look at the structure of the youth game. This is something I haven't done btw. But what percentage of profit is spent on developing the grassroots game? This is where Premiership teams do have a responsibilty, both to the communities on whom they depend, and the future of international football.

What about cap systems on wages and transfer fees too? Across all of Europe. ...

4:00 AM  
Blogger chris c paul said...

oh, if you want to exchange links then e mail chrischarliepaul [at] gmail [dot] dom

4:04 AM  
Blogger Duffman said...

What you say it true. I've always believed that experienced and talented players from the continent would raise the bar for our youngsters. Except, by and large, it hasn't and clubs are happy to overseas to recruit their youngsters.

Nevertheless, there should always be enough talented Englishmen to fill a squad and if Greece can win a major international trophy then so can England.

Johhny Foreigner is just used as a scapegoat by the FA to cover up their own shortcomings. It's a time-honoured tradition. Next thing you know Trevor Brooking will be making a "rivers of blood" speech.

4:40 AM  
Anonymous de vertalerin said...

There's also the question of the wildly inflated cost of English players. Wenger eventually paid Barcelona £700 000 for Fabregas. What did Walcott cost, at the same age? The BBC said "an initial £5m, but rising to about £12.5m."

5:44 AM  
Blogger Antonio G said...

Gentlemen! Welcome! Always nice to see new faces. So to speak.

In my book, de vertalerin, 12M for Walcott is a freakin bargain compared to 5M for Michael Chopra or 16.5M (ha!) for Bent. But I agree with your general point.

And Duffman, the image of Brooking giving a rivers of blood speech made milk go out my nose this morning. Thank you.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Guessedworker said...

Twenty years ago it was Scandinavian footballers who were drafted in to the (then) First Division squads because, apparently, they were better than the available homegrown players. They were also cheap - the poor man's answer to the buying power of the big (and not so big) Italian and Spanish clubs.

Today, it's Africans that can be bought cheaply - and at a later stage of development. That's important because there is then less investment risk attached, and less egg on the managerial face if the player does not produce on the pitch.

I do believe that risk limitation and the managerial fear factor are drivers of the foreign invasion. The covering excuse that the bar will be raised and homegrowns will be better for it has been shown to be self-serving and highly dubious.

The other point that needs to be made is that there is NO English football team. The English are indigenous to England and a people of Northern European descent. Their footballers have lost out twice ... once to settled immigrants, and once to foreign imports.

Actually, it's worse that than that. To represent (in reality) the Football Association of England, a player does not even have to have been born in England. John Barnes was born in Jamaica. So was Luther Blissett. Cyrille Regis was born in French Guyana, John Salako in Nigeria. They were all naturalised British, of course. But on that basis they could as readily have been selected for the Scotland or Wales teams. It's a farce.

5:41 AM  
Anonymous JJ said...

Fabio Capello has just 9 days, 13 hours and 11 minutes left to learn English for his first meeting with the England squad! Pledge your support now and help Fabio Capello learn English!

6:22 AM  
Anonymous jonjon said...

Should there be a Salary Cap in Football?
Personally I think there should be! It’s just getting to be stupid money in football at the top of the premiership!
It’s always the same teams at the top proving that football success is based purely on money which ruins the idea of it being a sport! They’ve done it in rugby, basketball, hockey and American football and it makes the sports more competitive and better to watch!
I do a little Spread Betting (or more precisely Football Spread Betting) from time to time and most matches don’t hold much surprise who is going to win, its boring! I want to see a team at the bottom pulling off an amazing season beating last seasons winners in a close fought battle!
Make things fair! It shouldn’t be about money!

5:55 AM  

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