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England's National Team: A Rant

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Steven GerrardI know this isn't about Leeds, but hell, I'm angry. What planet is Steven Gerrard on? The England captain (in the absence of John Terry) has declared that there are too many foreign players in the Premier League and the only way to make the English national team any good is to impose a quota on foreign players.

Forgive me, Steven, but I'm confused. If there were enough talented young English players coming up through the academy system, surely they'd be playing in the Premier League? If we have enough good English players to maintain the current Premiership standard, where are they? If they're playing in the Championship, why does every (predominantly English) promoted Championship team have such difficulty staying in the Premiership without a hefty injection of funds to purchase (you guessed it) foreign players? If Rafa Benitez had skillful young strikers coming up through his youth system, would he really have needed to shell out millions for Fernando Torres? Aside from Ashley Cole, can anyone out there name a single world-class English left-back? Steve McClaren, incompetent though he might be, was forced to resort to playing a centre-back (Joleon Lescott) out of position against Russia, with disastrous results, because Cole couldn't play. How bad does the standard of English players have to be that a centre-back was preferable to every other living English left-back?

What Gerrard - and the idiots who, like him, favour a quota system - seem to be in complete ignorance of is the simple fact that young English players are generally not as good as young Brazilian players, young Italian players, young French players. Exceptional, world-class players like Wayne Rooney are the lucky exceptions who somehow survived a system that produces players with virtually no technical ability beyond being able to thump a long ball upfield. We have a youth system that emphasizes the full 11-a-side game, neglecting technical skills and pushing smaller and weaker children out in favour of early-developers who, if many professional English players are anything to go by, aren't that talented.

Rather than turning the Premier League into a glorified version of the Championship, we need to address, at a national level, the failings of our youth systems and of youth coaching in general, so that young English players can stand toe to toe with their overseas counterparts. Lowering the standard of the Premier League might create the illusion of more world-class English players, but the only way to create the reality is to build up our youth so that they don't need help from the government - or Steven Gerrard - to be able to play in the world's best football league.