IN a day and age where British people are encouraged to go out and buy British, there appears to be very few that actually are. A recent caller to one of my local radio stations, however, is one such person who has taken the initiative to spend every penny he owns on products from his home shores.
“Why go abroad when we have perfectly good products here?” he explained.
“Sure, if you buy products from elsewhere, they may be cheaper – but are they as good?
“To me, we are better off making the most of the quality that we can produce, and if that means spending a little more, it has to be worth it – keep it British!”.
Encouraging words, and true to the fact that our tiny little home on the western edge of Europe does harbour the quality - if people are willing to give it a chance. In footballing circles, that hasn’t always been the case.
The days of 66′ when Bobby Moore ecstatically lifted the Jules Rimet trophy aloft was a prime time for British football. Defeating the best of the best was a lift for everyone, and merely substantiated the fact that we were as good as anyone else on the planet.
1966 was a long time ago, and plenty of water has passed beneath the bridge since then. Football in our country has changed. Some say for the better, some say for the worse. The formation of our Premier League was the catalyst for the change. The hefty pay cheques on offer soon became an attractive proposition for the oodles of talent that resided across the world.
It has become a popular trend, and over the course of twenty years or so and more so today, our top league is the habitat for more overseas players and managers than some would like. Whilst many of our country’s top clubs’ immediate aims are to stay way ahead of the competition by doing everything in their powers to be successful, it has come at a huge cost, and dented a massive hole in the overall confidence of all things British.
The national team has struggled. The youth – once regarded as some of the finest young talent in the world – many are no longer given the chance to hone their skills and nurture their talents on the biggest stage.
Most are shipped out for match experience and on a Saturday afternoon, many can be found playing lower league football in front of paltry crowds at a wind swept stadium. Experience nonetheless, but hardly surprising to see so few top talents emerging from our game anymore.
But is the faith in the British beginning to show miniscule signs of recovery? Not so long back, I penned an article regarding Tottenham Hotspur and their manager André Villas Boas – a narcissistic, egotistical lunatic obsessed by his own press. A man who epitomises everything that’s wrong with our stubborn belief that foreign is best!
His sacking came as a relief, but his impending replacement was the worry. Many names from across the continent were mentioned as a successor to the Portuguese and when Tim Sherwood was named as caretaker boss, it looked nothing but a stop-gap. How refreshing it was, then, to see him handed an eighteen-month contract following an explosive start to his managerial ‘stint’.
Fair play to Daniel Levy who, in truth, is prepared to give British a chance – even if in more recent times it hasn’t really panned out that way, Harry Redknapp aside. Sherwood is a breath of fresh air. He talks with openness; with passion; with reality. He knows football is a results business and has openly admitted that if he fails to make the top four this season – he’s a goner! A shame really, given the high quality of opposition all vying for that fourth spot.
I’d like to think that Sherwood will be given at least the full eighteen months on his contract to show his credentials. Already, he’s revived the bungling Emanuelle Adebayor and returned Tottenham to the fast, attacking football that the club has become accustomed to. The majority of the fans are happy – even if their new manager is a closet Arsenal fan!
I appreciate that the Champions League is everything to every club that invests substantially in making qualification a pre-requisite, and whilst the glitz and glamour that does accompany Europe’s elite competition also brings with it titanic pressures, it also ensures that the revolving door at these clubs is in continuous motion.
Liverpool have to be applauded. The owners recognised the need for stability, but also with a clear vision for the future. Kudos to them too for hiring a young and enthusiastic manager in Brendan Rodgers who fitted that bill, and the progress that the Merseyside club have made under him should act as a benchmark to the less wealthy clubs who may have a long term plan in mind.
Rodgers also illustrates that there are some exceptionally talented managers in Britain and that clubs don’t necessarily need to look elsewhere to move forward. It saddens me that Cardiff City and West Bromwich Albion for instance don’t share a similar vision; sacking the likes of Steve Clark and Malky Mackay and replacing with unproven non-nationals illustrates everything that’s wrong with the Premier League.
Pepe Mel was fired by Real Betis with them languishing rock bottom of La Liga – how on god’s planet is he better suited to the Hawthorns job than Steve Clark, who had been performing admirably during his time there with very little resources at his disposal? It truly beggars belief.
Southampton’s ousting of Nigel Adkins also didn’t sit well with me either, but in fairness Pochettino has proved himself to be an extremely astute replacement. Fair play too to Manchester United. Replacing Fergie was never going to be easy and they could have easily have gone for a Mourinho-type replacement, but they too stuck with British and rewarded the endeavours of another talented young manager in David Moyes.
The Premier League is beginning to look slightly divided between the two ‘win at all costs’ clubs in Chelsea and Manchester City, and the chasing pack, who appear to be prepared to give young British players a chance. Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton, Manchester United & Southampton, to name a few, are all giving their youngsters ample game time and as a result, their development has been exceptional. It offers a moderately bright future for the home nations at international level.
Whilst it’s pleasing to see these clubs offering opportunities, we still have a long way to go as our prestigious league continues to be a highly sought-after haven for foreign players. With only 32% of British players accounting for the minutes played in the PL so far this season, it highlights the level of the problems that we face.
Spanish and German players, to be used as an example, make up over 50% of their respective leagues. As a result, it’s no surprise to see so many brilliant young talents emerging from those countries. The trouble is, their domestic leagues aren’t anywhere near as lucrative as our own, which means we will constantly witness wave after wave of Europe’s brightest talents over here, which is great for the Premier League, but has a severely adverse effect on British football.
But there does appear to be a chink of light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel. More British managers are being given a chance, mainly due to the failings of others before them. Perhaps the penny is beginning to drop – dictatorship-style owners aside, of course.
I wish everyone involved in professional football would do all that they can to extract the very best of our own; not just the players, but the coaches as well. The talent and the skills are there, all they need is a chance!