That is the number of English players in the Chelsea squad in their most recent game against Stoke. Chelsea, the team who in many people’s eyes are running away with this year’s Premier League, only had one English player on the field. That player was Gary Cahill if you’re wondering, a solitary English player surrounded by an abundance of foreign talent. Myriads of players from across the globe come to play in the Premier League as it is widely considered to be the best league in the world, which means that the vast majority of top tier teams have more players from different nationalities than they do homegrown players. The question is: why isn’t the huge amount of talent in England doing the same and moving overseas to get a better chance in a foreign league?
We have such a high quality of English talent that comes through the academies and, while some do break into the first team and have brilliant careers, most are left on an endless loan carousel or made to sit on the bench or in the reserves and be a spectator of the very game they hunger to be apart of. A great deal of these players could become stars abroad but very few ever emigrate to other parts of Europe and a minuscule amount ever move across continents (unless they are in the twilight of their career and move across the Atlantic).
I completely understand why young football players may not want to play abroad; leaving their family, the language barrier and moving to a place that will be so alien to them. There are also various cases of players moving abroad to play in a different country, only for it to be a complete disaster! Players like Jonathan Woodgate who had a torrid time at Real Madrid, Emile Heskey’s unfortunate venture to the Newcastle Jets in Australia and, most recently, Ravel Morrison who is currently doing nothing at Lazio after being rated so highly before is move overseas.
However, look past the high profile flops and you find some gems applying their trade in countries all over the globe. Gems like Jay Bothroyd, a player you may remember who played for Coventry, Wolves and Cardiff as well as earning a sole England cap, who is now a star over in Japan in the J1 League for Júbilo Iwata and has scored 32 goals in 49 appearances. He joined the Japanese outfit when they were in Japan’s second tier and helped them to a spectacular promotion last year by being the league’s top goalscorer. Bothroyd has really come into his own after his move even at the age of 34 which people will say is past a player’s prime. Jay, however, is coming into his prime and went from a mediocre, and some may even say lacklustre, player in England’s top two tiers to a football superstar in Japan.
Another example of a British player finding success abroad is Scotland’s Oliver Burke who made the switch in the Summer from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig. He is quickly settling into life in Germany and has already scored his first goal and his performances have helped him to break into the Scotland team at the tender age of 19. Joe Hart has done the same, moved abroad to Torino to play regularly which helps him secure his place as England’s No. 1. Playing regularly is crucial to further your career as a professional footballer, you don’t need me to tell you that, and moving to a foreign side can be the perfect platform to do that as, usually, eyes will be on that player for breaking the mould.
That’s what we need; players to break the mould and create their own path, not following in the footsteps of countless others who’s careers never amounted to much because they were stuck on a loan carousel or sat in the reserves. Players who want to showcase themselves to further their career by being in the minority and drawing attention to themselves.
I can see this happening n the future and with it will come a wave of young, proficient and talented English footballers. You never know, maybe then we will actually have a team that will contend at a major tournament…
By Harry Robinson