Why England won’t win a major competition in our lifetimes.

The England Football team, that strange place where we seem to have generation after generation of incredible talent with no real final product. We’ve produced some of the best players in the world yet when it comes to an international competition, we lack that edge going forward. In this piece I’ve looked at some points that could explain our shortcomings on the global stage.

1. Youth Development

When I play Football Manager I will happily spend hours upon hours searching the depths of the world’s football to find the best youth players and bring them in at an early age, allowing them to become used to the new country and the style of football that you are trying to implement.

National football should be very similar in my opinion, in the sense that players with potential should be brought through more of the youth stages and then given international football, rather than just chucked in the deep end. We’re all too used to players arriving in the premier league and struggling for the first season because they’re adapting to the new environment, so why should international football be any different?


England U21’s Final team in their defeat to Germany in 2009. I’m sure you will recognise a few faces! Source: Talk Sport

A comparison I will provide regularly in this piece will be that of Germany. Now despite recent success, the Germans were actually really struggling with international football just before 2000, and they set up a new system since and it’s worked a charm. They have focused much more on developing home-grown talent, improved youth facilities across the nation and have significantly more qualified coaches than England. In 2009, the U21 European Championship saw England and Germany in the same group, in the group stages they drew 1-1 with goals from Gonzalo Castro and Jack Rodwell. However they met in the final and Germany ran away 4-0 winners. Now despite the results lets look at how the Germans and the English lined up in the final:


And how the Germans lined up in comparison, again some familiar faces! Soure: Bundesliga Fanatic

Germany England
Manuel Neuer (GK) Scott Loach (GK)
Andreas Beck Martin Cranie
Sebastian Boenisch Lee Cattermole
Benedikt Höwedes Nedum Onuoha
Jérôme Boateng James Milner
Sami Khedira (C) Mark Noble (C)
Mesut Özil Adam Johnson
Sandro Wagner Fabrice Muamba
Fabian Johnson Theo Walcott
Mats Hummels Micah Richards
Gonzalo Castro Kieran Gibbs

So you’ll probably recognise names on both sides, however how many of the English side went on to play for England? Let alone play well? Compared with a German side with the likes of Manuel Neuer and Mesut Özil, its hardly a fair comparison! If this team were to play today I’m assuming the scoreline would be even worse!

So step 1 for the FA: Sort out English youth football. If a players getting youth football, you should be expecting him to be playing full international football in the future, if they’re not good enough to be playing then you need better scouts or better coaches.

2. Domestic player bias

When doing these sort of articles, I like to be able to back up my claims with evidence, or some statistic that seems to match my trends. As a Mathematics student I think its important to provide a proof or pseudo-proof to your claims.

In this case, I noticed that a lot of foreign players tend to travel to the premier league, but English players don’t tend to move in the same direction as much. You could easily write in this article each English player in a different major European leagues. However hundreds of other players seem to come here. In fact on 12th January 2017 we had 69.2% of our players from other countries which is over 10% more than any other nation in Europe. Our reliance on foreign talent at our clubs means the English talent is pushed aside. Even Pep Guardiola compared Spanish nationals coming to England and suggested that the English team could benefit from playing in other nations. Teams and leagues have different styles of play, with different coaches and different ethos regarding the game so collecting lots of different ideas might change the national side completely. We’ve had varying success when players seem to move abroad. Gareth Bale, although not English but British, famously moved to Real Madrid however no major English players are currently playing overseas. At the 2018 World Cup, many teams have announced their squads and of the teams higher than England in the FIFA World Rankings I’ve compared how many of the national teams are playing club football abroad:

Nation (FIFA Ranking)

% of squad playing club football in home nation

England (13th)


Denmark (12th)


Peru (11th)


Poland (10th)


Chile (9th)

Did not qualify

Spain (8th)


France (7th)


Switzerland (6th)


Argentina (5th)


Portugal (4th)


Belgium (3rd)


Brazil (2nd)


Germany (1st)


As you can see we are the only nation with all our players coming from home soil. Every other team has players playing all over the world. Is this something we should seek to improve upon? Obviously the appeal of the Premier League is enormous, with money enticing the very best players. However if you can’t get game time in England then maybe younger players should go abroad to seek new challenges in a foreign country.

So here are just two of my suggestions on how I think the England team could improve, but I’m sure every fan has their own opinions on who to select and how the team could win major competitions. I guess that’s why Gareth Southgate has the hardest job in football!


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