Monday, July 23, 2007

EPL recruitment of teenagers threatens England

A new wave of foreign footballers are being recruited from the age of 16 as potential stars for the English Premier League, making it impossible for most English youngsters to make the grade. Howard Wilkinson, the Chairman of the English League Managers Association, said foreign dominance will damage English football and jeopardise the national side's chances of winning, or even qualifying for, big tournaments. He told David Harrison of the Sunday Telegraph there is set to be "a knock-on effect at grassroots level where young players would have even fewer role models".

Manchester City lead the field with 14 out of its 30 academy "scholars" now foreign. Liverpool have seven out of 15, Chelsea 10 out of 31, Blackburn and Bolton have eight out of 21 and Fulham have five out of 20. Some clubs are already setting up "feeder" academies in countries as far away as China and Nigeria to discover young talent.

The trend,is already having an effect on the make-up of England's top teams. Last season, only 42 percent of the players who started Premiership matches were English, compared with 73 percent of home-grown players in Italy's top division and more than 60 per cent in Spain's. On one weekend only 89 out of 220 players were born in England. Of those, just 26 came through youth academies.

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