The one thing that is said more often than not is that the Premier League is to blame for the lack of talent at national level, due to the low levels of home grown players making it into the first team squad of the 20 clubs. An observation of mine is that are they really to blame? Or can a portion of said blame be put on the head of the players in question? I believe so.
When you look at successful clubs – even the likes of Arsenal go through a huge turnover of players before they get one or two who cut the mustard. A lot of those who do come through are purchased from other clubs, such as Ramsey, Walcott or Chamberlain. If you look at those who did come through the system currently in the squad – Gibbs, Wilshere and that’s about it. Bellerin came from Barcelona, Chambers came from Southampton.
Southampton are the outstanding example – providing us with the likes of Chambers, Walcott, Bale, Chamberlain and more! They seem to have a great method of keeping their feet on the ground while giving them a chance at breaking into the first team. Matt Targett has come in this season and done well, Ward Prowse is another who has impressed as well. That there is the problem with so many – once they get near the team, or get a nice chunky sum of money in their pay-packet, their heads are gone. Their focus seems to be elsewhere, and the arrogance levels go up several notches.
It could be said that clubs giving kids these sort of deals means it is their fault, but if they don’t pay them what they want, someone else will – Pogba at Juventus for example. Attitude seems to be the problem with so many. Clubs have to asses this and make a judgement – can this player perform at the top level? Can they keep their cool in the heat of battle? Can they be trusted to turn up on time in training and put 100% in? The problem with a lot of these English kids is the answer to at least 2 of those 3 questions is no.
The next issue is loan spells at other clubs. Some go with the attitude of “I’m a Premier League player, I should be starting every game and be the key player” – and at League One or Two level, they will get a reality check as it’s a different game. It’s a lot more tough, and what a free kick is given for in the PL isn’t in the lower leagues. Being a Newcastle fan, I’ve seen this plenty of times with youth players. One that stands out is Marcus Maddison – he was told by people close to the club that he was pretty much certain to make the grade, and after that point he stopped trying because he thought it was nailed on. Cue a loan spell to Gateshead, where his attitude was that of what I described at the start of this paragraph. He got a real wake-up call and was nearly sent back. Eventually he got his head in gear and scored some corking goals – but it was too late as Newcastle had seen what he was like and quickly released him as they had huge question marks over his mentality. This was all from his interview with BBC Sport not so long ago.
Now at Peterborough, he is still having issues. His laziness is a real problem, often strolling around the pitch and not tracking back. 7 goals in 29 last season for them, followed by 4 in 5 so far this season – obviously talented, but it could be the mental side of things that cost him a top level career. On the flip side you have Adam Armstrong – 5 goals in 4 appearances for Coventry at just 18 (also on loan from NUFC) and really causing a storm. The England Under 18 man is very much expected to have a big career back on Tyneside – and this is a very good sign! The contrast in attitude is clear – and a big reason why he is expected to do well, as he has even played around 15 games for the first team for his parent club.
Jack Grealish has made a brilliant example of himself – now in Villa’s main squad, but pictured passed out on the floor on holiday after inhaling a dangerous substance. At the end of the day – these kids are exactly that – kids. Unless they have a sensible head on their shoulders and a strong family around them – the money and fame is bound to have an adverse effect. Much like Premier League clubs – a lot of lower league clubs are not willing to risk their limited funds on potential flops, hence why after being released from their first clubs most go out of football by the age of 18.
Look around other Premier League teams – there are examples of players that have dropped down a few levels on multiple loans and still made it – Harry Kane and Saido Berahino two fine examples. But for every player that makes it, there are probably 20 that don’t. When it comes to the big teams, there are few that make it. Because every position is vital, and there is no space for error and even time to get them upto speed – very few are given more than a few games in Cups and other smaller competitions. If they can’t do it straight away, they are replaced by someone who can – hence why literally nobody from Chelsea’s academy ever gets though – they are loaned out all over the shop and simply sold on with a buy-back clause incase they ever become good (well, after what happened with Matic, who they sold for £2m and brought back a few years later for over £20m).
So – are Premier League clubs to blame? Partially – they have to look out for themselves. They could play more youth players, but if it costs them they are less likely to do it. Each place in the league is worth a lot of money, and with that comes pressure to get results. To get into the first team squad of a team at the moment you have to be something special. Rolando Aarons has broken into the Newcastle squad, and he does look special. Under Steve McClaren he should flourish as he is well known for bringing through youth players.
In my opinion – the blame is split 50/50. If there were more like Armstrong, and less like Maddison – we may be a better position in terms of the national team. Teams take far too much stick for this sort of thing. If the media were to look a little deeper – they would probably realise this!