Ahead of England’s vital Euro 2008 qualifiers against Israel and Russia, injuries to key players have exposed an alarming lack of strength in depth in the England team.
The lack of quality English players providing back up to the national team has recently been linked to a rising number of foreign players in the Premiership and a lack of talented young players being produced by football academies.
The list of walking wounded for the two upcoming games include striker Wayne Rooney (Nike Total 90 Laser), and midfield goal threats and Adidas endorsees David Beckham (Adidas Predator Absolute Globe) and Frank Lampard (Adidas Predator Absolute). Add to that the Liverpool duo of Steven Gerrard (Adidas Predator Absolute) who is struggling with a broken toe and Peter Crouch (Puma v.106) who is suspended for the Israel game, and England attacking prowess is severely reduced.
England have been forced to call up cart horse Emile Heskey (Nike Air Legend) and Ashley Young (Adidas +F50 Tunit) to join Jermain Defoe (Adidas Tunit 2), Andrew Johnson (Nike Total 90 Laser), and Alan Smith (Adidas Predator Absolute) , three strikers who are yet to open their Premiership scoring account this season.
Sir Trevor Brooking, the Football Association’s Director of Football Development has stated: “We have nowhere near the depth we should have and that will be an issue as soon as you pick up injuries. We have that now in attack with the senior squad and we’re struggling to find a replacement.”
Brooking is also under no doubt that the growing number of foreign players in the Premier League is depriving domestic talent of first-team football and that is having a detrimental effect on England’s chances of challenging at major tournaments. The figures back up Brooking’s claims, with only 37% of the starting XIs that played on the first weekend of the 2007/8 Premiership season being English, compared to 76% when the Premiership began in 1992.
He concludes by saying ” with all the buying that has gone on over the summer, will there be first-team opportunities for some of our youngsters between 17 and 21?”
England U21 boss Stuart Pearce concurs with Brooking, saying that there is no point him watching the top four clubs for players for the U21 side as the teams are filled with foreign players. From Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, the only player eligible for him to consider would be Chris Eagles (Nike Mercurial Vapor III) who is on the fringes of United’s first team squad. Although Pearce may have overlooked Theo Walcott (Nike Mercurial Vapor III).
Much of the England U21 team is made up of players from ‘unfancied’ clubs such as Manchester City and Middlesbrough, who are renowned for having strong academies and throwing young home grown players into the first team picture at an early age.