Top 5 players to have played below the Prem

We all know that the best players play in the top divisions. Some go even better than this and get to play in the Champions League or even the World Cup. So it seems only logical if you can play at this level, then you should do so. But in this article we are going to look at the 5 best players to have played in any league under the Premier League in England. At number 5 is…

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The Absurd Numbers of Lars Stindl

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Germany’s 2018 World Cup was really bad. They hadn’t been knocked out of the competition at the first stage since 1938, but after masterclass performances from Mexico and Sweden, the Champions were booted out of the competition. A lot of the blame was passed on Joachim Low and not selecting Leroy Sane despite being involved in over 30 goals in all competitions last season. He wasn’t the only key component missing from Germany’s squad, 29-year-old Lars Stindl who suffered a syndesmotic ligament tear in April. He may not have the highest of goal scoring records, just 6 times in the last Bundesliga campaign and 47 top-flight goals in his career, but Stindl’s defensive work makes him one of the most unusually gifted forwards to work with. 

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Love for El Loco?

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Where it began

On June 15th, Leeds United appointed Marcelo Bielsa as Head Coach after Paul Heckingbottom was sacked because he was awful, simply awful. The move was a highly rumoured one with media from all over the world reporting it but no one actually expected ‘El Loco’ to actually take the role as Head Coach. Saying that though, I’m sure the rumoured £67K a week helps, right?

Bielsa is widely regarded as a footballing genius & has been given an almost god like status in certain places, but can it happen for Leeds? Well, the early signs are showing it can. I’ll explain a little more below.

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The Homegrown Rule and how it has affected the development of Young players in England

new-premier-league-logo-2016-17-7The Homegrown rule. It’s something that often does the rounds in football chat and forums across the land. When people talk about how “England are never a force at international level” or “Young players just aren’t given a chance these days”, invariably the Homegrown rule is often called into question. And with seemingly good reason, especially in the Premier League.

Whilst it’s fantastic for all clubs concerned that the Premier League is such a huge financial cash cow, with clubs pocketing in excess of £130m per year just for competing in the Premier League, not to mention all the admittedly top-tier talent brought over from foreign shores, the question always comes back to whether England is doing enough to develop its own World Class talent. Whilst recently the England youth sides have had an incredible amount of success, such as winning the Under 20 World Cup, in times gone by the England teams suffered some damaging losses and have had to fight to get back their reputation of a good footballing nation.

Whilst some of this can be attributed to clubs not giving enough game time to younger players when they can buy a ready-made foreign replacement, in this writer’s opinion it can be mostly attributed to past failings by the Football Association, such as failing to provide adequate funding for grass-roots level football, and ultimately, the incredibly vague nature of the Premier League’s Homegrown Rule, which states:

Each Premier League team can only register 25 players over the age of 21 for that season’s first-team matches. Of those 25 players, no more than 17 can be non-Home Grown Players. In other words, if you want the full complement of 25 over-21 players, you must have at least 8 Home Grown Players. Note that this rule ONLY applies to Premier League matches, not fixtures in other competitions.”

A bit vague right? When you delve a little deeper into it, the rules state that:

A Home Grown Player, as defined by the Premier League, is a player who: (a) is 21 or older on January 1 of the year in which that season begins; and (b) spent three years between the ages of 16 and 21 with a team in the English football League system.”

So not only does the Homegrown Rule sound very vague in its initial description, but it actually does nothing to promote the growth and development of young British players. This in turn leads to sub standard international performances and intense media scrutiny for the “underperforming” players. The other issue with this rule is that there is no obligation to even PLAY your Homegrown players! As long as they form part of your 25 man squad, that’s all that matters. It’s no wonder then that so much pressure is put on any emerging young talent in England, as the perception will be that they must be a top quality talent, and sadly this pressure is often what causes players to not fulfil that potential.

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Michael Johnson was a hot prospect for Manchester City but ultimately gave up on football and now owns his own estate agents business. Credit to Telegraph.co.uk

One example of this is former Manchester City midfielder Michael Johnson. Hailed as something of a prodigy when he broke through to the City first team in 2006, he seemingly had the world at his feet. But just a few years later, and after several incidents, Manchester City paid up the remaining time on his £25k a week contract and Johnson retired from football, having stated that he had spent time in the Priory Clinic for mental health issues and now wanted to be left alone to live the rest of his life.

Whilst it was never specifically noted that the pressures of life as a rising star in the Premier League were to blame for his issues, it was almost certainly a factor. Had the pressures of his rising stock not been so great, perhaps he would still be playing now, but sadly this is not the case. And for me personally, there can be no doubt that the relaxed and vague nature of the Homegrown rule contributed to this. If there was a clearer route to regular first team football, as well as with the right support from health professionals, then more young players would get the opportunity to shine.

Whilst the Homegrown rule does apply to all of Europe’s major leagues, clubs in countries like Spain, Germany and Italy all spend a lot of time and money developing and cultivating their young talent, as well as providing them with all the necessary support that they require in order to prepare them for the pressures that come along with playing top flight football. Due to the intense nature of the Premier League, from the outside looking in, this doesn’t always seem to be the case.

Allsvenskan.jpgOver in Scandinavia, the Swedish Allsvenskan league has possibly the best Homegrown rule. Each matchday squad in the league must have at least nine Swedish players, which means that at worst five players in each team will get game time if all three substitutes are used. This has led to Swedish players earning big moves to other teams and means that they can potentially develop into World Class players. Zlatan Ibrahimovic spent 3 years at Malmo before earning a move to Ajax, current Sweden Captain Andreas Granqvist plays for Helsingborgs, whilst players like Pontus Jansson, Victor Lindelof and Kristoffer Nordfeldt all ply their trade in the UK for Leeds, Manchester United and Swansea respectively. All of them started their careers in the Swedish Leagues, though Lindelof started lower down in Division 1 Norra, but still earned a big move to Benfica regardless.

This is the sort of system that would yield more effective results, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t happen here in England. German teams must name at least twelve German players in their squad of twenty-five, which is effectively half, and its easy to see the results this has had on their international successes, prior to this year at least. Whilst in Spain and Italy as previously mentioned, there appears to be more game time given to young players to aid their development.

At the 2017 Under 21 European Championships, Germany, Spain and Italy’s Under 21 teams all played more top-flight minutes for their clubs than England players did as the images below will show.

If the Premier League were to introduce a rule similar to the Swedish Allsvenskan, then young players could potentially gain more top-flight game time and thus develop at a much quicker pace than they currently do. The much discussed “6+5 rule” is another option, but this was abandoned in 2010.

Ultimately, there won’t be any changes to the rule anytime soon or possibly even ever. But it is the opinion of this writer that for the England team to prosper and become a successful and feared footballing nation again, our young players need to be given the opportunity to get more game time. Whether that is with a rule change in the Premier League, or from moving abroad, both the FA and the Premier League must act to safeguard the future of English footballers.

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Check out some of our other fantastic articles:

Bradley Wright-Phillips – Reborn in New York

Marseille’s Duje Ćaleta-Car: The Tall Equivalent to Javier Mascherano?

Interview with former St Mirren and current Ross County player, Stelios Demetriou

Bradley Wright-Phillips – Reborn in New York

Bradley Wright-Phillips arrived in Harrison, New Jersey for a trial in 2013, after a disappointing career in England – however, after six years stateside, he would become a New York Red Bulls legend.

When he signed for the Red Bulls, many fans didn’t like the signing saying “failure in English football” and “I don’t even want the better WP brother, let alone his brother”.

However, things would quickly change…..

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The Three Free Agents To Keep An Eye Out For

 

sport-preview-max-meyer-to-arsenal.jpgThe summer always brings fresh new players to the free agency and thus starting the never-ending social media and paper talk. Despite already seeing some interesting names already hit free agency and move on to new clubs there are still hundreds of players yet to find a club, many  will attract interest from lots of sides not only around Europe but also across the world. I’ve picked my three favourite players who can be snapped up instantly to discuss their possible destinations.

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Interview with former St Mirren and current Ross County player, Stelios Demetriou

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It’s that time again… We are interviewing another footballer, this time Cyprus recent international and Ross County new signing Stelios Demetriou. We talk about his year and a half service at St Mirren, his aims for this season with Ross County, and much more.

The Cyprian was a key factor in St Mirren’s Championship winning season. Stelios started 17 games in the Scottish Championship and came off the bench in six fixtures. He was later released and spent a short time as a free agent. Ross County were the team to get the attacking wing backs signature as he sets his sights on another promotion campaign in the Scottish Championship.

The interview can be seen below:

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Dictate The Game’s 2018 World Cup Team of the Tournament

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Well, its all over for another 4 years, and congratulations to France on winning a well fought contest against a plucky Croatia side, coming away with a 4-2 win and ending their 20 year wait for another World Cup success.

Many players impressed during the course of this summer, and there is no doubt a lot of them will use this platform to secure big moves for themselves or bigger contracts where they are.

But who are the 11 players who have stood out during the tournament? We have put together our Team of the Tournament.

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Croatia v England: Match Preview

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Here we are, at the World Cup semi-final. Very few people predicted that happening. Many expected the same melodramatic soap opera of England going out early on, and it all being due to Sterling and Lingard being too cocky, or the lack of coaches. While England have only beaten inferior sides on paper, their run of games is an indirect result of how many larger international sides have struggled recently. Italy and Holland, among others, failed to qualify for the tournament; Argentina almost achieved that feat. If anything went differently, even a flinch of the players’ bodies, Spain and Portugal could’ve been knocked out by Iran in the group stage. Germany were knocked out to Sweden and Mexico then.

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