Category Archives: Annoyances

Are Foreign Players In The Premiership Hindering England’s Chances Of Success?

Cantona

I must apologise to many of my subscribers, as I realise this is not what you signed up for, but nonetheless I’m going to write about football.  I’ll be as brief as I can.

In the 1970’s England failed to qualify for four major international tournaments in a row, and this at a time when International football was far less competitive than it is nowadays.  In short, we were rubbish.  During the early 1980’s we fared little better, exiting at the group stage of Euro ’80, the second round stage of the 1982 World Cup and failing to qualify for Euro ’84.  Largely due to the heroics of Gary Lineker, the England team managed to create something to cheer about during the 1986 & 1990 World Cup Finals, but ultimately one man was not enough.  That these performances were a break from the norm is highlighted never more starkly than by the fact that we finished bottom of our group at both Euro ’88 and Euro ’92, registering the dismal return of four losses and two draws.  We then failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup Finals.  1966 sure seemed a long time ago.

But then something amazing happened (if you’re an English football fan).  In August 1992, there was a change in our domestic game.  The top division of the Football League broke away to form The Premiership, and huge sponsorship deals soon followed.  An inevitable consequence of this was the attraction of players from all over the world due to the large sums of money on offer.  From now on, kids across the country could watch the likes of Eric Cantona and Jürgen Klinsmann every week on television.  This sudden exposure to the superior technique and skill of continental players seemed to take effect in no time.  By the late nineties and early noughties we had players such as Shearer, Owen, Beckham, Scholes, Gerrard, Lampard, and Rooney to select from.  Predictably, all of these players went on to score hatful’s of goals for England (almost 200 between them to date).  Even our defenders could finally control and pass the ball.  The contrast between the England of 1991 and 2001 was breath-taking – now we could play!  The England team had become a genuine contender at major tournaments for the first time since the heady days of the mid-sixties.

Some might point out that surely we always had players of genuine ability – what about Waddle, Hoddle or Barnes?  Well none of these players ever scored at a major tournament, they have a combined scoring record of only one goal in every ten games and their overall contributions can at best be described as frustrating.  Kevin Keegan also never scored at a major tournament and had a one in four goal scoring record for England – way short of the world’s elite strikers.  Ray Wilkins managed only three goals in his 84 appearances.  These were players who were flattered by the old First Division and whom were unable to excel on the world stage.  Bryan Robson and Paul Gascoigne were of course the genuine articles, and along with the aforementioned Gary Lineker, standout as exceptions to the norm between 1976 and 1995.  However, both Robson and Gascoigne were continually hampered by injuries at vital moments, with Robson effectively missing two World Cup Finals.  Gascoigne was brilliant at two major tournaments (Italia ‘90 and Euro ’96) but was often unavailable between these two career peaks, and in the end managed only seven competitive goals for England, almost all of them during demolitions of Turkey and Moldova.

So this is the England story that the facts inform us of.  Of course, right from its inception there were grumblings about foreign players in the Premiership, but as this seemed to have no point to it other than xenophobia or racism for its own sake, I assumed it was just an embarrassing remnant of a bygone era and the moment these fools expired, so to would the grumbles.  But then something else amazing happened – these protests gained favour with a new generation, only this time they had a philosophy attached to their complaint that appeared to have nothing to do with hatred or prejudice.  Apparently, so we are being told, foreign players in the Premiership are ruining the England National Team.  Here is what Joey Barton says on his blog page:

Joey Barton Blog1

However, what really spurred me into writing this article was the piece printed in the Mail On Sunday on 01/12/13.  Former Manchester United player Gary Neville conducted an interview with Paul Scholes, also a former Manchester United player, and Eric Harrison, the Manchester United youth scout who helped guide Neville and Scholes at the start of their careers.  Here are the relevant parts:

Neville Column

I have at least three problems with the statements from Joey Barton, Paul Scholes and Eric Harrison.  Firstly, as a matter of principle, I must insist upon some evidence!  However, neither article provides any.  They simply state in various different ways (none of which are particularly ingratiating or inclusive sounding) that there are less English players in the Premiership now than 20 years ago – and then predict impending disaster.  Perhaps they have the evidence for all this doom and gloom, but chose not to share it.

Personally, I fail to see how restricting the pool that Premier League Clubs can select from will maintain the quality therein, and I’m not aware of a statistical model that supports such a thesis.  To state it in footballing terms, promoting a Championship or League One player to the Premiership will not suddenly make him play like Hazard or Yaya Toure – or Rooney for that matter.

Secondly, noticing that 75 is not 32% of 220, I thought I’d better do my own research.  The actual number of English players who started for their clubs in the first matches of the 2013/14 season is 72, which rounds more accurately to 33%.  But the point is that this is not a numerical emergency.  You only need 11 players for a football team.  72 is more than enough to choose from.  Isn’t it better that these 72 are pushed to reach the highest possible standards?  This will only occur if competition is at its most potent – that’s just capitalism 101.

Thirdly, as I’ve hinted at already, I feel it’s more likely that the evidence for the influence of foreign players in our leagues on the National team points in the opposite direction to that which is suggested by Neville, Scholes, Harrison and Barton – at a minimum the consequences must surely be zero sum.  But let’s see what the numbers tell us:

England International Statistics

England Major Tournament Performance1

These numbers do not represent the collapse of the English National team in the wake of an influx of foreign players to our domestic teams.  It’s true we had a terrible 2014 World Cup (though we qualified in impressive style without losing a game) but who doesn’t experience short term dips in results – Spain and Italy also went out at the group stages and no one is suggesting they are in a moment of crisis.

Clearly football cannot allow itself to drag its knuckles behind other industries.  No one would have a problem with a talented young oncologist wishing to ply their life saving trade in this country – so neither should they have a problem when it comes to professional sportsmen and women wishing to do so.  And just as there is a common misunderstanding with regards to immigrants in general, who contrary to popular belief provide a net benefit to our economy, there is also no reason at all to fear the influence of foreign players on our National football team.  In fact, a brief study of the history of immigration ought to teach us to be rather unsurprised by the fact that foreign players are having a positive effect.  Fear is a useful survival tool, but it becomes self-defeating if it is not tempered by an honest consultation of the facts.


How To Fly

I thought I would bring a little light heartedness to these pages and take the opportunity to entertain you with my grumpy old man persona.  Over the next few paragraphs I’m going to get a few things off of my chest in relation to the frustrations I have with the process of air travel, or to state it more accurately, some of the people one encounters as a part of this process.

People fascinate me generally.  I’m often left with the feeling that hardly anyone seems to know how to behave appropriately in public.  Nowhere is this feeling more intense than at the airport and then on the plane.  We are thrust into close proximity with hundreds of strangers for hours on end, often requiring cooperation with one another to achieve mutually desired goals.  For intelligent, moral beings this ought to be an easy, pain free exercise.  If only!

Security

Now listen carefully – it’s the same every time.  You will be required to put your liquids (no more than 100ml per bottle) into a transparent plastic bag and place it outside of your carry-on luggage.  Please prepare the bag before you enter the security line and have it to hand when you reach the front of the queue.

You will also have to empty your pockets of all their contents and place the items in a separate tray on the security conveyor belt.  My recommendation here is to avoid this altogether.  There are no shops in the security line, so you do not need your credit cards or cash, and you do not need to show your passport or boarding pass.  You definitely don’t need to make or take a phone call!  So I suggest keeping one of the side compartments of your carry-on luggage empty when doing your packing.  Then, before you enter the security line, you can empty your pockets into this side panel and return the items to your pockets when you come out the other side.

Finally, laptops will need to be removed from bags and placed in a separate tray.  I don’t expect you to hold your laptop whilst queuing, but at least be aware that you will need to access it when your turn arrives – so make sure you can do so quickly.

If these suggestions I make are adhered to, no one should take more than 30 seconds to clear security, random searches aside.  However, almost everyone who reaches the front of the line seems to respond as though the whole scenario is a total shock to them.  Much rummaging and panic ensues.  Three or four minutes pass.  The will to live begins to drain from me as I look on.  Believe it or not, I would much rather be sat in departures with a coffee and a newspaper than standing in line, holding my bag, whilst I watch the contents of your bag spill all over terminal one.  Please prepare.  It’s the same every time.

My Legs

I’m 6’5” (that’s about 194 centimetres in new money).  I can’t fit into economy seats without suffering great pain.  So on a long haul flight, if I am not lucky enough to get an exit seat, I will have no choice but to extend my pins into the aisle.  When you are walking down the aisles, please take a little look where you are going.  This is good advice generally, even outside of an aeroplane environment, but definitely when you are on a plane with me, please take care not to kick my shins whilst I’m sleeping.

The Exit Seat Window

This window does not suddenly become a public free-for-all just because there is not a seat in front of it.  If it is dawn or dusk, and the cabin is in ‘night mode’ so that passengers can sleep, please do not enter the exit seat window area and open the window shutter so that bright light suddenly shines directly onto me and wakes me up.  This is the exact equivalent of me leaning across you in your regular seat and opening your shutter.  You know this would be outrageous.  It is also outrageous to do it in an exit seat area.

Reclining Your Seat

To be honest, whilst the general public ought to be able to navigate this without assistance, airlines could easily solve the problem by simply removing the ability to recline.  There is absolutely no need to do it and it is so rude and inconsiderate that words (almost) fail me.  Anyone who reclines their seat is either stupid or selfish because they either do not realise they are crushing the person behind them or they simply don’t care.  I once witnessed a very amusing response to such a person and I want to recommend it as action to be taken by anyone who should fall victim to a seat recliner.  Essentially a lady was visibly (at least to me – the people watcher) distressed at being crushed by the man in front of her who had taken his seat the whole way back.  She couldn’t even bring down her tray to place her drink and book on.  Her response was possibly inspired, certainly assisted by the fact that the guy suffered from male pattern baldness but it would work even if that wasn’t the case.  Being as it was, his balding crown was basically right under her nose.  I watched with glee as she ever so gently began blowing into the middle of his bald patch.  This went on intermittently for a couple of hours.  The man was relentlessly swatting his head as though he thought an insect was crawling on him and then looking up at the air con unit and adjusting it, thinking a draft was the cause of his irritation.  Genius!  What a brilliant and harmless way to fight back!