NEIL BONNAR: English players need to head overseas to broaden their horizons
12:00pm Thursday 10th July 2014 in Sport
“GO west young man” is a famous old quote attributed to American newspaper editor Horace Greeley advising his countrymen should travel if they wanted to make the best of themselves.
Similar could be said to this country’s footballers today.
Just answer me this: how many England players have made their names abroad?
While the inquest into Brazil’s decline builds up a head of steam following their 7-1 semi-final mauling, it shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet that England’s World Cup showing was far worse.
English pundits have shown incredible audacity by falling over themselves to say where Brazil went wrong the other night.
They should be piling the pressure on the FA to deliver thousands of fully qualified coaches over the next five years to put us on a par with the number Germany and Spain have.
We hear it is going to happen but never does. In the meantime our kids are coached by well-meaning but unqualified parents.
But there is something else we should be doing to improve our existing players: encouraging them to play abroad.
The Premier League is the richest in the world, hence it receives more world-class foreign players than any other. That limits the number of English players who are in the starting line-ups of the 20 teams week in week out.
At the moment that figure stands at around 70, more than enough to fill a 23-man England squad.
Of England’s World Cup squad 22 out of the 23 play for English clubs, the other playing in Scotland, which is hardly abroad.
The four semi-finalists Argentina, Brazil, Holland and Germany had 20, 19, 13 and seven players, respectively, who ply their trade outside their own countries.
There has always been a fixed reluctance among English players to go abroad to improve.
They prefer to stay in the comfort zone of an English club’s reserve team than man up like the rest of the world’s footballers.
Our home boys are letting down the nation’s football public by settling for the money and the easy life they know.
The criticism is always that there are too many foreigners in our game. That’s not true, the foreigners bring up the standard of our game and our 70 or so English starters benefit from that.
A far bigger problem is that there are not enough English players in other country’s leagues.
To misquote Greeley, they should be told: go east young man.