Read this article, superbly well said.
Also, there is this superb comment by MirandaC, which needs re-posting. So here goes.
If England are threadbare at higher level it isn’t the fault of the top Premiership clubs whose academies are providing a footballing education second to none, as shown by the fact that three of the semi-finalists in this year’s NextGen, the under-19s CL, are English: Chelsea, Arsenal and Villa – the first two of which are all to often unthinkingly blamed for depriving young British talent of its rightful chance.
In fact almost a hundred percent of the intake into those clubs’ academies at age 9-10 is local. The question to ask, therefore, is why so many of those local kids who get to enjoy coaching and facilities that are the envy of the world from their earliest years fail to make it. What’s missing, the talent or the ambition and graft?
Don’t know about other clubs, but at Arsenal in recent years two English kids, Wilshere and Gibbs, who entered the academy at age 9 have made it into the first team; the others, many of whom were considered just as talented initially – e.g. Henri Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel Thomas – did not, reportedly because they fooled about and failed to put in the grind. Of Arsenal’s current Next-Gen first-choice team only three (Chuba Akpom, Isaac Hayden and Nico Yennaris) are English; the remainder are Bulgarian, German, Dutch, Catalan, Swiss … i.e. kids who entered the academy in their mid- teens but who in a couple of years have risen to the top, leaving their English counterparts lagging behind.
It seems unlikely that these foreigners are innately more talented, especially in the case of the Catalans and Germans who, had they clearly been embryo Iniestas and Messis, would surely have been snapped up by Barca and Bayern’s academies rather than exiled to cold, rainy London? It must, then, be the other factor that makes for success: application. Foreign kids are putting in the effort and making better use of the coaching and facilities than the locals who’ve enjoyed them from their earliest years.
Since being lousy at football isn’t built into the English gene pool, and since there’s no lack of opportunities provided by top Premiership clubs, that leaves us with the culture at large. More precisely it leaves us with the football media.
Instead of giving NextGen the coverage it deserves, the Guardian has treated us to a series of space-fillers – e.g. that one about England’s Rio hotel. This epitomizes the problem. Youth development, kids’ stuff, who gives a fuck about that? Which clubs are doing an excellent job and deserve applause for their success – that’s Arsenal, Villa and Chelsea - and which clubs are not and deserve to be shamed – that’s City who failed to make it through their NextGen group – does the Guardian give a toss? No, it does not. What it cares about, or imagines its readers care about, is the waterbeds and shopping and security at England’s Rio hotel. Why are we surprised that 13-14-year-old English kids have absorbed our interests and values? We’ve taught them that their little competitions where they get to pit their skills and graft against their contemporaries at Europe’s top clubs are of no importance or interest; still less important was the work that produced their success. What’s important in England is shopping and waterbeds in a luxury hotel already booked for a tournament that England haven’t yet qualified for. English football doesn’t do football, not as such; it just does footballing bling.
The Guardian is quasi-left-lib, and sometimes does not remain my cup of tea; but the comments are often amazing! Here’s one.