Football: English talents get fewer chances to shine with under a third in starting line-up

Liverpool's Jordan Ibe during a pre season friendly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 24, 2015.
Liverpool's Jordan Ibe during a pre season friendly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 24, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - The percentage of English players in top-flight starting line-ups fell below one third during the opening weekend of the Premier League, fuelling the Football Association's concerns about a lack of opportunities for home-grown youngsters, The Times reported.

Of the 220 players who started for Premier League clubs at the weekend, only 73, or 33.2 per cent, were eligible to play for England, the Times said (http://thetim.es/1J8B3f5).

The numbers represent a dip from last season's 35 per cent and a steep fall from 69 per cent in 1992-93, when the Premier League was launched.

The English top flight already has the lowest proportion of players among Europe's leading leagues.

This season's opening day figures were inflated by newly promoted Bournemouth, who started eight English players against Aston Villa, the Times said.

But fellow new boys Watford, along with Arsenal and Newcastle United, started with just one Englishman.

Champions Chelsea started with two, but one of those was John Terry, who retired from international football three years ago.

Reece Oxford, the 16-year-old sensation who impressed on his debut with West Ham United, was one of just five English teenagers to start a Premier League game at the weekend. The others were Brendan Galloway for Everton, Joe Gomez and Jordan Ibe for Liverpool, and Matt Targett for Southampton.

Greg Dyke, the FA chairman, has already warned that English football is a "tanker that needs turning", but his efforts to tighten rules to improve prospects for home-grown players have met with resistance from Premier League clubs.

The majority of club managers and chairmen feel they should not have to consider nationality when building their teams and that English players are often too expensive.

Reuters reported last week that the Premier League Chief Executive was also more in favour of helping develop grassroots football rather than "artificially" increasing quotas for English players in Premier League squads (http://reut.rs/1J14BcN).

But with many of the English players who did feature already in their late 20s and 30s and therefore unlikely to be called up to the national team, the question of how to boost the numbers of young Englishmen in the top flight is more pressing than ever before.

Of the more than 500 million pounds (S$1.08 billion) spent on top-flight transfers this summer, just over a fifth has been spent on English players, according to The Times.

Nearly half of that 100 million pound outlay was due to Manchester City spending a reported 49 million pounds to buy Raheem Sterling from Liverpool.

With the Premier League sticking to its position that improvement will come through the Elite Player Performance Plan, which requires better standards and facilities as well as more contact hours for academy players, the dearth of young English players in the top flight seems likely to continue in the near term.