Football: Lee laments lack of praise for home grown players

You could be forgiven for thinking the England players have become a prosaic backcloth to show off the stellar talents of exotic foreigners. Take the Footballer of the Year award, for example. This year's winner was Gianfranco Zola, in 1996 it was Eric Cantona, in 1995 Jurgen Klinsmann.

It is enough to make a patriot weep, yet the players themselves are not convinced and not just because they are piqued at being overlooked in the rush to applaud the likes of Juninho, etc. Not a single overseas player featured in the Professional Footballers' Association's team of the season and Robert Lee, for one, believes that assessment is correct.

Indeed Lee, a team-mate of Faustino Asprilla, David Ginola and Philippe Albert at Newcastle United, was positively gushing about the qualities of his compatriots as he prepared for England's friendly against South Africa at Old Trafford on Saturday. He insists his peers got it right to vote Alan Shearer player of the year and the football writers wrong to give their award to Zola.

"People underestimate how good English players are," Lee said. "They go on about the foreigners who have come over here and done well. But look at the David Beckhams, the Paul Gascoignes, and players like that. We've got players just as good.

"I didn't pick any foreigners in my team. Zola was outstanding in a lot of matches, but in some he went missing. Over a year I think the players got it right. Alan Shearer should have got the writers' award for what he did in the European Championships and for finishing top scorer despite missing a third of the season through injury. That was a remarkable achievement."

Lee, a midfield player who has forced himself to the forefront of Glenn Hoddle's thinking with compelling displays against Mexico and Georgia in the last two months, fears that the English game might suffer in the rush to import mercenaries. "Some of the foreigners, like Zola and Juninho, are world-class players," he said. "The problem is that if you bring too many in who are not, then there's trouble for the young players coming through.

"We don't make enough of our own players. When you see a foreign player do something, like in the Cup final when Zola flicked it back for Newton to score, there's such a fuss. John Motson was going mad about that but Paul Gascoigne could have done that with his eyes shut. It was just a back flick.

As for Lee himself, his emergence from a player discarded for Euro 96 by Terry Venables to England's best performer against Mexico has not diminished speculation he might leave Newcastle for London. His original contract at St James' Park included a get-out clause in case he got homesick and he has been linked with a move to West Ham as Kenny Dalglish starts his summer renovations.

Lee, who has two years left on his contract, said: "I've had speculation about wanting to go back to London since I was at Newcastle. It's out of my hands. If Kenny wants to sell me there's not a lot I can do about that. Ideally, I don't want to leave, with the European Cup coming up, and we're a very big club. But it's not down to me any more.

"Nothing surprises me in football, except Eric Cantona retiring. Everybody knows there will be changes at Newcastle."

The fee for a Lee move is estimated at pounds 2.5m, huge for a 31-year-old but, as he puts it, "cheap for an England player". He is delighted that his international career has been revived, having, this time last year, kicked his heels on England's Far East tour only to omitted from Venables' squad.

"When I was left out I thought it was the end," he said. "It was a big blow. If I had expected it, I could have prepared myself for it. I played against Hungary and then I was due to play against China, but I was injured and told to rest my injury. I thought I was resting it for Euro 96 but it turned out I was resting for a lot longer.

"I feel as fit as I've ever been, a lot fitter than I probably was when I was at Charlton and a lot younger. I only moved into centre midfield three years ago and it's a new lease of life. It's like starting from scratch."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C#.NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL,MVVM, SOA...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform