Like most fans I find the transfer window a guilty pleasure. With little in the way of games to watch to scratch the football itch trying to work out who’ll be a hit and who’ll be this years Angel De Maria is a summer game. It’s fun to watch even though we all know the sums of money being thrown about make it a vulgar spectacle.
Sadly it’s also become the time of year when the number of English players in the premier league receives a fresh cull with the depressing statistic trotted out in the autumn of how few English players are actually playing football.
This year has been a little different. So far amongst the imports a lot of English players are moving to a new Premier League club (see the list below of England hopefuls who have moved thus far);
Jermain Defoe, Charlie Taylor, Jack Cork, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Wayne Rooney, Scott Malone, Tom Ince, Kasey Palmer, Harry Maguire, Dominic Solanke, Kyle Walker, Josh Tymon, Tammy Abraham, Tom Cleverley, Will Hughes, Nathaniel Chalobah, Sam Howes & Jay Rodriguez.
More will follow in the week ahead (starting with Joe Hart) whilst numerous young English players are trying their luck in other high level european leagues, most notably Reece Oxford who’s joined Borussia Monchengladbach on a season long loan.
OK there are plenty of names on that list that won’t get near the England squad and some are leaving relegated teams in order to stay in the Premier League. But a striking number have moved from a big club in order to guarantee regular first team football.
I do think one of the reasons players are more willing to do this is Gareth Southgate’s proclamation that players need to be playing for their clubs to get picked for England and a willingness to pick players at less fashionable Premier League clubs.
Wayne Rooney is of course the highest profile example, Rooney was peripheral at Manchester United last season, even in the midst of a late season injury crisis Rooney largely found himself on the fringes of Jose Mourinho’s side. Rooney could easily have sat out the remainder of his United contract on the fringes of the first team or disappeared to the MLS or China. Instead he rejoined Everton partly due to his attachment to the club and partly to restart his England career after being dropped.
The players Southgate will be most pleased to see move will be Under 21 midfield duo Chalobah and Loftus-Cheek. Chalobah has long been touted a future England star playing 97 times at the various youth levels for his country, yet he only made his Chelsea debut this season. Club mate Loftus-Cheek got his Chelsea debut 2 years ago and was hailed a future star at Stamford Bridge but the last 2 seasons have seen him go sideways
Both made enough appearances (mostly as sub) for Chelsea to win Premier League champion medals, but with Chelsea close to signing Tiemoue Bakayoko they were looking at being 4th & 5th in the pecking order to be Chelsea’s centre midfield pair (even if they sell Nemanja Matic). At Watford & Crystal Palace respectively they will get a first team chance. Of course merely playing should not be enough to get either a call up to the senior side but- they will have to actively improve 2 of last seasons worst teams.
Promising players leaving a Champions League side (albeit on loan in Loftus Cheek’s case) would never have happened under some previous England managers on the grounds that being a squad player at a top club was deemed good enough. Conversely star performers at smaller premier league sides were consistently overlooked.
Prime examples in Sven Goran-Erikkson’s reign saw Wes Brown, Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Emile Heskey and most bizarrely Theo Walcott picked whilst not getting regular games for top 4 clubs. The most telling examples of players from a smaller clubs being overlooked were strikers Andy Johnson & Darren Bent (then of Crystal Palace & Charlton) who despite 20+ goal seasons barely got capped and when Johnson did he was played on the right wing.
Last season saw Rooney & Theo Walcott both dropped after losing their places in their club sides whilst Southgate called up in-form players from Sunderland, Burnley, West Brom and Southampton. Some will point to the inclusion of Chris Smalling & Alex-Oxlaide-Chamberlain as squad players at big clubs but both got into the England team having been recalled by their clubs and starting major cup finals (Smalling was admitedley helped by injury and suspension to others).
There are plenty of reasons to doubt if the likes of Jake Livermore and Tom Heaton are good enough for international football but at least these players should be analysed from a position of starting regularly for their clubs.
The question now for Southgate is when he has a qualification campaign behind him, will he pick players on club form or qualifying performances? A trap that previously ensnared Fabio Capello & Roy Hodgson. Let’s wait and see!