England National Team

The Premier League’s Reliance On Foreign Talent Is Killing English Football

By Chris Sutton | 5:02 am, October 10, 2016

Chris Sutton, who won the Premier League playing for Blackburn Rovers and is now a pundit for BT Sport, analyses the impact of the foreign influx of managers,  players and owners on English football:

The English Premier League is out there on its own. It’s the most exciting, the most competitive and the most lucrative football league in the world.

But the Premier League is also unique in that its current climate of short-termism is having an increasingly detrimental effect on the English national team and the development of domestic coaches and players alike.

Last week some comments I made on BBC Radio 5 Live about the appointment of the American coach Bob Bradley as the new manager of Swansea City raised eyebrows on social media.

Why, I asked, were British managers overlooked in favour of Bradley taking over at the Premier League club? Was it snobbery against home-grown coaches? Or the fact that Swansea is now owned by Americans Jason Levien and Steve Kaplan?

Bradley certainly wasn’t hired because of his Premier League track record. He doesn’t have one, not having managed in Britain before.

I’m not being disrespectful to Bradley – he might turn out to be a competent coach at Swansea and he has enjoyed a decent management career in Norway, France and in charge of the American national side.

I just don’t buy the idea that he is better-qualified for a job in the Premier League than, say, Steve Bruce who recently left Hull City and who has managed nearly 800 games in England.

Chris Sutton
Chris Sutton: The England national team suffers due to the foreign influx

Bradley’s appointment illustrated that – however exciting and intensely competitive the Premier League might be to watch – the quick-fix culture and short-term decision-making of clubs in the top flight is increasingly stifling the development of British coaches, players and the success of the English national team.

Look at Gareth Southgate’s recent appointment as caretaker England manager. It was impossible to reel off eight or nine potential other English candidates for the job. Currently there’s only Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace, Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, Sean Dyche at Burnley and Mike Phelan at Hull City managing in the Premier League.

Of those, the excellent Howe was hired by Bournemouth in desperation – when they were on the brink of financial meltdown – and Phelan still doesn’t have the Hull job on a permanent basis.

Arsène Wenger recently celebrated his twentieth anniversary as Arsenal manager. When he was appointed in 1996, Ruud Gullit was the only other foreign boss in the Premier League.

Yet now there are dozens of British coaches out there who have proven themselves in lower leagues but who are demoralised that they aren’t going to get a chance at the top level. I find this situation alarming and don’t understand why more British coaches and managers aren’t hired at the lower levels of the Premier League.

Let me stress: I’ve got nothing against foreign coaches managing in England. Mauricio Pochettino is a breath of fresh air at Tottenham Hotspur and Jurgen Klopp might just restore former glories to Liverpool.

The influx of foreign players, coaches and managers is part of the evolution of the game and many of them have been brilliant for the Premier League.

But it’s not parochial to point out that Premier League clubs are now being run in ways that have a negative impact on both the national side and the emergence of young English talent.

The system is at fault, and the system needs to change.

Germany’s Bundesliga should be the benchmark. Eleven out of the 18 Bundesliga bosses are German, with most of the other managers in the league having previously extensively played and managed in Germany.

Bundesliga clubs aren’t afraid to promote from within, giving young German coaches a chance and young players opportunities to develop.  A good example is Julian Nagelsmann, the 29-year-old manager of Hoffenheim.

By contrast, Premier League clubs, in their pursuit of instant success, buy most talent from overseas. The pressure for managers to get results is so intense that if their team hits a bad run of form, why would they select a young squad talent when they can go out and buy an overseas player who has played 80 times for their country?

But those who argue this doesn’t affect the national team are talking rubbish. If young players are getting pushed down the pecking order and not being played at Premier League level, how will we know if they’re ever good enough for the national team?

Germany, of course, are world champions and reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Their record is a far cry from England’s chronic under-achievement in recent years which is partly due to the foreign owners who run Premier League clubs prioritising their individual agendas above those of the country in which they operate.

The English system differs not only from Germany but from virtually every other league in the world. In Italy’s Serie A, 16 out of 20 managers are Italian; in France’s Ligue 1, 15 out of 20 managers are French; in Spain’s La Liga, 13 out of 20 managers are Spanish.

In those countries, national managers come from within their set-ups. It’s hard to imagine Italy or Germany ever doing an England and hiring foreign coaches for their national team like Sven-Göran Eriksson and Fabio Capello.

The logic and method within their national football structures focuses on establishing clear pathways for the progression of coaches and younger players. This long-term approach benefits the international team as well as the domestic league. Just look at England’s disastrous Euro 2016 campaign in France. The team lacked a clear identity and had no effective way of playing the game.

Is it arrogance or pride that is stopping English football’s governing bodies from replicating Spain, Germany, Italy and France, all of whom- unlike England- have won major international tournaments in the 21st century?

The win-at-all-costs, short-term attitude typified by the Premier League cannot and will not help the development of English coaches and players.

When I was young and first started playing for Norwich City in the early 1990s, I realised there was a way into the first team if I performed well in the reserves and someone got injured, since there weren’t many others to pick. I wasn’t loaned out to lesser clubs at the start of my career as so many of the young British players are now because of the size of their squads.

At Norwich I don’t think I would have been given a first-team opportunity had I been playing now. If they had another 12 to 14 players to pick from the squad, suffice it to say it would have been much harder to break through. It probably would have been the same for Robbie Fowler, Andy Cole and Michael Owen.

Of course if owners are ploughing money into clubs, they are entitled to employ who they want and buy who they see fit. But unless rule makers have a change of heart, Premier League clubs will continue to operate without concern for the English national team or domestic player development.

Good luck to Bob Bradley in his first game managing Swansea, which happens to be against Wenger’s Arsenal on Saturday.

But while you watch the match, spare a thought for those British players and managers who won’t get the chance to show what they could do on their prestigious domestic league stage so long as clubs pursue immediate gains and continue to ignore the national interest.