Everyone loves a home-grown player. Sir John Hall may never see his dream of 11 Geordies playing for Newcastle United, but in this day and age 11 Englishmen will do. Or even 11 Brits.
Talk to any football fan and they would much rather see local, or even localish, players wearing their colours than here-today-gone-tomorrow foreign mercenaries. Until you get around to names, that is.
Over the last two days we have been running a poll to see which striker you would like to see Newcastle United buy next season. There were five choices: Loic Remy, Alexandre Lacazette, Danny Ings, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jordan Rhodes.
Scotland international Rhodes was fourth, Englishman Ings fifth. The top three places were left to the foreign lads. It wasn’t a totally fair comparison. Ings has four Under-21 caps, the rest are full internationals. Aubameyang, Lacazette and Remy have played in the Champions League. The British pair have not even played in the top division. Any top division. But in other ways it is like-for-like.
All five are in roughly the same bracket when it comes to their transfer fee. And that is why you are more likely to hear French spoken in a Newcastle dressing room than English.
British players are over-priced. English players are normally stupidly over-priced.
Not always. Rickie Lambert cost £4m this summer – you’d struggle to get Ings or Rhodes for twice that – while Brazil’s David Luiz cost 50m. Pounds that is, not Lira. You could buy someone who can actually defend for that and still have tens of millions of pounds left.
But consider this: Luke Shaw, not good enough to get in England’s first-choice World Cup side cost Manchester United £34m. Adam Lallana couldn’t force his way into the Three Pussy Cats’ first XI either, but Liverpool successfully haggled Southampton down to a bargain £25m.
Calum Chambers was the Saints’ second-choice right-back last season. Arsenal will pay £12m-£16m for him. Ross McCormack – two goals in 11 Scotland appearances – set Championship side Fulham back £11m.
Once Shaw was through the Old Trafford door, the Red Devils sold a proven left-back – admittedly who had 12 months on his contract and wanted to leave – to Juventus for £1.2m.
Lallana cost £2m less than Cesc Fabregas – a World Cup winner who has been there and got the T-shirt in English football.
The Gunners only paid £10m for Mathieu Debuchy. Unlike Chambers, he has a strong case to be the best right-back in the Premier League.
Newcastle only needed to spend half that to replace him with a right-back, Daryl Janmaat, who played in the World Cup semi-final a few weeks ago.
Fulham could have bought two Demba Bas for the cost of McCormack and still had almost enough change for Italian international Fabio Quagliarella.
You get the idea. But if that’s the problem, what is the solution?
Footballers, like any other workers, are free to hawk their trade around any European Union country if they or their passport comes from one. So the well-meaning rules on home-grown players – eight out of 25 per club unless, like Manchester City, you break Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules, in which case it is just five in the Champions League (that’ll teach them) – only make those reared here more valuable.
Note the word reared. Fabregas is home-grown despite being as English as the paella you get at the bullfight.
Those are the rules which mean Southampton can demand a transfer fee for Shaw which in Jose Mourinho’s would kill poor old Chelsea, those staunch defenders both of English talent and the financial well-being of our football.
That there are so few English players good enough to play in a top Champions League side – or, it would seem, a team that hopes to be the best in next season’s Championship – only forces the price higher.
That’s not to say those rules should be scrapped. Without them, clubs wouldn’t even have to pretend to care about having Englishmen in their squad and Roy Hodgson’s job would be even more difficult.
English clubs are so awash with Rupert Murdoch and company’s money that they may as well tattoo the word ‘sucker’ across the forehead of anyone who steps up to the negotiating table on their behalf. That is not going to change any time soon, and when it does the league will be no better off for it – far worse in fact.
All we can do is try to hammer home the message that growing your own is better than importing – and hope to goodness the Football Association ploughs more of its money into developing English talent so good our leading clubs (and – importantly – other countries’) cannot ignore it.
Even if it does cost a fortune.