It’s a question which most English football fans have been asking for years, maybe even decades, but what are the reasons for English football being so far behind their European competitors?
One reason which surfaced around a year ago was the introduction of ‘B’ teams. Now I for one was for the idea, but a huge majority of fans and Football League clubs opposed the idea, and the plans eventually were dropped. Just one of the reasons for the idea was the continued success of ‘B’ teams in Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, nations where they have enjoyed World Cup and European Championship success within the last decade. Spain are clearly the best example to take from this, as some of their treble winning squad came through some sort of ‘B’ team process in Spain; Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas, David Villa, Juan Mata, Pedro and David Silva are just a few names which have come through the Spanish ‘B’ team system and have been or are now world class players. The German process is no exception either, with 17 of their 23 man squad for last year’s World Cup success coming through a ‘B’ team at some point during their career; Mesut Ozil, Andre Schurrle, Julian Draxler, Mario Gotze, Shkodran Mustafi and Roman Weidenfeller were the only 6 who didn’t go through the process, but the likes of Phillipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels and Sami Khedira all did. What am I trying to say with all of this? Well, it seems that if you start playing young players in a competitive league, you can give those players game time to develop their skills, help them improve before making the jump to the first team. English teams really do lack in giving their youth players game time, except maybe team in League 1 and 2, only for the bigger teams to sign them in transfer windows and not play them. So what can be done? As much as most will hate to hear this, it seems like the only option, or the best option anyway, is to go forward with this ‘B’ team process. Me personally, I would give the idea a trial for a couple of years and see what comes of it; if nothing happens the scrap it, but give it a try and see what happens especially with Russia 2018 around the corner so soon.
However, it doesn’t just stop at ‘B’ teams, Premier League teams struggle to field any home grown players during their matches, which obviously impacts the game time which young players have, and end up falling down the football ladder or sent on loan constantly; Patrick Bamford is a perfect example of this. With the new broadcasting deal where Premier League teams all got a slice of the £4billion payout, it’s been a transfer window of buying and buying big. This had hindered the chances of young players who were looking to make the step up this year, like Bamford. Last season Premier League teams fielded the lowest percentage of home grown players; 77%. This is way behind Germany (96%), France (93%) and Spain (92%), but still behind Italy (79%). Ligue 1 had the most young home grown players with 25%, followed by La Liga with 23%. Bundesliga had 17%, while Serie A had the lowest with 10%; the Premier League sitting 4th with 14%. As mentioned before, ‘B’ could be a chance to increase these very low numbers, and could help produce more world class English talent.
Now it may not have anything to do with playing young players, but I feel that this is a reason why the Premier League is starting to lose fans and is starting to become overtaken by the other top European leagues; TICKET PRICES! During the BBC’s annual survey, The Price of Football, they had gathered that ticket prices had not only gone up, but were above the average selling price of a ticket for that league, even though most had frozen or gone down. It’s not just the Premier League, the Football League and even the National League are all guilty of it. If you compare the prices of some of the big European clubs, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Juventus to English prices, it’s clear to see why fans would rather pay a little bit extra to go watch a game abroad in the sun, rather than on a rainy night in Stoke. I’m not saying that we should follow suit, but a re-consideration of prices is defiantly needed, even if they deducted £50 off the season ticket prices, it would be a start; after all we are supporters and not customers.