In our sympathetic farewell to Roy Hodgson we briefly alluded to big Sam being our preferred choice as England manager. So now the talk has turned to how his team will line up, how they’ll play and all the other potential obstacles that the survival specialist will be sure to face during his tenure. Instilling belief and passion, establishing a style of play, and deciding what to do with Wayne Rooney have all been identified as big Sam’s biggest challenges. I’m pretty sure Allardyce will have a confident stance of such things, he is ver competent. There is however one challenge that hasn’t been spoken about – 32.2%.
That was the percentage of English players who started the first game of last season in the Premier League. It seems obvious to point out that there are too many foreign players in the British game, but the ramifications are never spoken about in any detail. So let’s take a minute to think about what it’ll mean for the new England manager.
Well for starters, if you find yourself falling out of form like former England regular Ashley Young did a couple of years ago, you’ll find any opportunity at first team football challenging…at any club. Or, if like Fabian Delph you start impressing with your consistency and drive, then one of the big clubs will pay over the odds to stick you in their squad in order to fill the homegrown quota. Remember when Delph provided some balance to our England midfield for a bit? Anyone?
So if your’e Sam Allardyce, you might find yourself with a completely different handful of top flight players to pick from by the time you get to the tournament. This was the case for Hodgson, and one of the few problems that was genuinely out of his control. 32.2% isn’t just problematic the further up the league you go, but also the further up the pitch you look too.
The likes of Raheem Sterling and Jack Wilshire seem to have defied the English scouting systems preference for tall, strong, athletic players. The culture of fear that is instilled at the youngest possible age doesn’t facilitate expressing yourself at all. Go to any grass roots game up and down the country and you’ll hear the four most destructive words in the game – GET RID OF IT. So when creativity somehow seeps through the gaps, they better play well every game and never get injured like players do when they’re subjected to a ridiculous amount of minutes. Otherwise we’ll have no creative players left…oh, excuse me.
It would be insulting to tell Allardyce that he needs to instil belief and a system. They are the basics of coaching, and something he has done time and time again. For those who are worried about a negative style of football, just think back to how well we coped as a nation when big Sam strangled all the creativity out of Jay Jay Okocha…oh wait. Or when he couldn’t revive Niholas Anelka’s career..oh sorry.
Jose Mourinho is usually blessed with the cream of the crop and quite often parks the bus. I’m pretty sure nobody would be complaining had he been appointed the manager. Even Guardiola demands discipline and pragmatism right up until the final pass. Watch Thierry Henry explain this point articulatly on MNF. The notable coach that seems to actively stop creative players expressing themselves is Louis Van Gal, and maybe Tony Pulis (but he doesn’t tend to activley recruit creativity). Even when Chelsea parked the bus, Fabregas and Hazard were pretty good to watch weren’t they?
Allardyce plays the cards he is dealt, and his often dealt some pretty underwhelming ones. This is pretty fortunate given that he’ll have less than 1/3 of the Premier League to pick from, and it’s pretty likely that this minority of top flight Englishmen will be fairly different by the time we get to the World Cup… if we get there of course (joking, Allardyce is the man).