What do Chris Wilder and Karl Robinson have in common?
Well, at first glance, not a lot. Both were decent footballers in their day. Both have since become successful managers. But that, other than the fact they due to come face to face at Bramall Lane tomorrow until Pete Winkelman intervened, is where the similarities end. Or do they?
Wilder, who would probably rather join Sheffield Wednesday than Twitter, thinks England’s governing bodies have made a right old mess of plans to develop young domestic talent. Robinson, an unashamed new school kinda guy, likewise. United’s manager admitted he had “no interest” in helping “Leicester City’s under-23’s” earn their first team spurs following last month’s Checkatrade Trophy tie with Walsall at Bramall Lane. Robinson, meanwhile, also labelled the competition “rubbish” during an equally acerbic rant before receiving his P45 earlier this week.
And, without wishing to give this toxic tournament more column inches than necessary, an email recently arrived in my inbox which confirms they are right.
The Centre International d’Etude du Sport’s (CIES) Football Observatory, an excellent organisation based in Switzerland, published a report earlier this month which revealed some truly shocking statistics about the lack of top-flight opportunities being afforded to English players.
According to the CIES, Everton were the only team then ranked in the top third of the Premier League who “fielded national players for more than half the minutes” available to them since August. Even more startling is the fact that, across the division as a whole, “16 out of 20” clubs plunged below the 50 per cent mark including Manchester City (17%), Chelsea (16%) and Arsenal (23%). Both Barcelona and Real Madrid, by way of contrast, achieved a figure of 41.
And yet, either directly or via snide insinuations, we are constantly told by administrators that England’s biggest clubs are best-served to develop players. Complete and utter cobblers borne-out of the fact that the moneymen, rather than the FA, now appear to be governing the game.
Twenty-one of the 27 players who have appeared for United this season are English. At MK Dons, the numbers are 20 and 27 too.
You don’t even have to do the mathematics. If the PL really is serious about improving the fortunes of the England team, if it really is more interested in helping improve the talent pool for Gareth Southgate than flexing its financial muscles and grabbing even more power, then it should encourage EFL academies rather than trying wreck them by forcing through ridiculous ideas like the Checkatrade revamp and Elite Player Performance Plan.