By 90Min
October 15, 2018

What a whirlwind summer it was for the England national football team. Unexpected World Cup semi-finalists, Gareth Southgate's side defied many critics to reach the last four of the competition for the first time in 28 years.

In doing so, the hopes of a nation were restored and fans up and down the country were swept up in the euphoria of football potentially 'coming home'. Croatia ended that particular dream and in doing so, reminded us that England aren't the finished article by any means.

In fact, it's quite the opposite. Southgate's young side are very much a work in progress and valuable experience at the highest level must continue to be accrued in order to have any chance of challenging in major competition once more. There is a significant obstacle standing in Southgate's way however...the Premier League.

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Sounds daft doesn't it? The very league where the majority of our top talent play their football week in and week out hindering the national team? Sadly, it's true. 

Put simply, not enough English talent is given the opportunity to shine at the highest level in this country. Of the 518 players who played in the Premier League last year, only 166 qualified as home grown English talent - that's a staggeringly low 32%. Compare that to the Bundesliga - where 48% players of players were German and La Liga, where 59% of players were Spanish, and you realise the numbers don't add up.

Ligue 1, domestic competition of this summer's World Cup winners France, fielded 52% domestic homegrown players last season - and though you could argue that many of their top players now play abroad, you must remember that many of them sharpened their skills playing at home. Hugo Lloris, Samuel Umtiti, Nabil Fekir and Kylian Mbappé are four examples of players who rose to international prominence in their homeland, with youngsters Tanguy Ndombele and Presnel Kimbembe now impressing for Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain.

So why is it so difficult for home grown talent to get an opportunity? It's not as if there is a shortage of talent across the country. James Maddison, Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho's inclusion in Gareth Southgate's latest squad show that their are promising youngsters looking to make their mark. Look further into the depths of England's talent pool though and you find the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Dominic Solanke and Tammy Abraham struggling to get a kick at Liverpool and Chelsea - with loan moves seemingly their only access to competitive action.

Harry Winks is another struggling to get regular game time at Spurs (injuries of course are a factor here), while fringe squad players Lewis Cook and Demarai Gray have been unable to secure guaranteed first-team action at Bournemouth and Leicester.

Clubs of their magnitude understandably have a huge appetite for success, so it's hard to criticise them for investing in talent from abroad if they feel that's what is required to succeed. The real issue here comes from the parameters in which Premier League clubs work within. As long as they comply with naming eight homegrown players (who must have been trained for three years in England before the age of 21) in their 25-man squad for the season, it's happy days. 

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There is no obligation to play young English talent though, and unless you are of significant quality (in the ilk of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli), you're likely to be overlooked in favour of more experienced continental players - particularly if you're at a 'big six' club.


That fundamental problem has led to one precocious talent, Jadon Sancho, heading off to the Bundesliga to play for Borussia Dortmund, knowing that he is more likely to be given regular first-team exposure at the top level. The benefits of him doing that are there for all to see - his call-up to Southgate's squad is fully deserved, and what's interesting is that had he remained at Manchester City, it's entirely possible that this wouldn't have happened so soon into his fledgling career.

Then again, it might have. Southgate is a progressive thinker and clearly is in tune with identifying and playing England's next generation. He's proven that he's not afraid to call up players who show promise and potential, and his belief that England should build for a bright future has seen prominent roles in the team given to Marcus Rashford and John Stones. It would be nice for him, and for England fans in general though, for emerging players to hone the finer details of their craft at club level, rather than attempting to cut their teeth on the international stage.

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And whilst the future under Southgate appears bright, with the cohesion and disciplined approach being taken to steadying England's international future clear for all to see - all that needs tweaking are the guidelines of how many young players should be included in Premier League matchday squads. 

More opportunities and more minutes will allow young talents to make the step up to top level football more succinctly, and in the long run, will inspire future generations to believe that making the grade in England is achievable - regardless of how old you may be. The platform is perfect, but as it stands, the execution is poor - and needs to be addressed.

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