Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The English League Cup. Not particularly English.

Written by Brad Smith

Like it or not, the English League Cup, or Carling Cup as it is now known, is not considered a major trophy by some managers, with Arsene Wenger relaying to the press last year that, "winning it would not end his trophy drought". Although Alex Ferguson said it was a trophy "worth winning". So is a game of rock, paper, scissors, Sir Alex.

Also, if you look at statistics from the Premier League last season, you will find less than 35% of the players who were used were English. Which isn't a lot. Fair enough, the FA did try and introduce a rule, that in each clubs 25 man squad, they must name 8 "home grown" players. Though that rule had so many leaks and transparency, if you had been to London and could spell tea, you were almost there.

I like the idea, and I think it could work, but not in this present way. You have a lot of the lower Premier League teams having a higher percentage of at least British players, but as you go up the league, with the exception of Tottenham, and possibly Liverpool, there are less and less.

If you take these two problems, the ageing and overlooked Carling Cup, and the lack of English/British players, and I think the FA have a great opportunity. The Carling Cup, Worthington Cup, FlyBe Bet365 CompareTheMarket Cup, whatever name brings in the most money, the original name is often overlooked. The English League Cup.

Why not use this competition the one to blood the youngsters and the British into and improve the English game? With the current squad for the cup at 18, 7 substitutes, if you introduced a rule where say 10, or 12 of the 18 players had to be British or Irish. Is sounds like a large amount, but this isn't the Premier League, and considering most of the top clubs are turning their noses up at the cup anyway, I think this could seriously work, and would be some sort of reward for the teams with the best English/British players.

There is one more problem with this however, as what constitutes a British player now? Personally, I would suggest that instead of changing country like their underwear between age groups, say at the age of 18, players should have to declare which country they want to represent, as I believe we would find alot more players wanting to play for the country they are best socially connected too, and feel more towards, than the one they have more chance of representing.

You look at players like Carlo Cudicini, and Mikel Arteta, that because of their national teams overflowing with stars, they are talked about to represent England. But, call me old-fashioned, call me what ever you want, although these are top class players, I wouldn't want them pulling on an England shirt just as much as I don't fancy bleating out the German national anthem.

Of course, this is only my view of attempting to spice up the League Cup, and improving the English game, and in no way would this prevent us exiting major competitions early, on penalties at the hands of a rival country. I do have an idea for this though, introducing the penalty shootout to the national curriculum aged 7, heavily supervised by German teachers, until they are the age where they can decide their own career, whether that be a penalty taker for England, or a goalkeeper for England.

Then we would moan we had too much choice.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Pulling the plug on the Lower Leagues.

The Premier League. The Promised Land. Whatever you want to call it, it is the pinnacle of English Football, where every club strives to be, playing the best, beating the best.

However, over the last few years, the divide between the top tier and the lower leagues has been rapidly increasing, from the owners, to the stadiums and academies of our beloved teams.

Recently, the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) was voted for by 46 of the Football League clubs, which many people believe is due to the fact that had the new plan not been voted for, then the Premier League would've withdrawn the current funding for youth development, £5m per year, that is currently in place.

So, what is this new plan, and what does it mean for lower league clubs?

Well, taking Milton Keynes Dons as an example, they recently recieved a £1.5m transfer fee from Chelsea for a 14 year old. Under the new rules, clubs will be paid a certain amount depending on how long they were under the clubs development for, between £3k and £40k per year, between the ages 9-16.

In short, it means that many top level clubs, awash with cash, could pay less than £100,000 per player to these clubs, a small percentage of what they would currently have to agree with the clubs for each player.

The main problem I have with this, is although the youth academies in place will be graded, and the better ones will be given more attention and coaching, it glosses over the lower league clubs, and seems to just be solely for the purpose of finding future England stars.

If clubs can get 10 players for the price of 1, I fear we will see more clubs taking low gambles of many more players, meaning there simply isnt enough room for them in these top teams to progress, leaving many hopeful youngsters tossed on the scrapheap, before they have been given a proper chance to shine.

I believe this new plan will put an end to the story, and the dreams of myself, and many others as youngsters. The one where as a 10 year old kid starting in his local academy, gets his debut for his boyhood club at 16, before being signed by a big club, captaining them to Champions League glory at 28, only to go back and play out his career at his local club, and end there as a hero.

Or maybe i'm just too much of a traditionalist. Make your own judgement.