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."

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup