Gary Neville fears for England as foreign players block path for home-grown players

National coach worried about number of foreign players in top flight after woeful summer

The former England international Gary Neville, and coach under Roy Hodgson, fears that the current generation of young English footballers are having their route to the top of the game blocked despite being capable of playing at the highest level.

Neville, 38, who played 85 times for his country in a 19-year career at Manchester United, has conceded that the old belief that "the cream rises to the top" – regardless of competition from foreign signings – now has to be re-examined. His comments come after a dismal summer in which England Under-21s, Under-20s and Under-19s managed one win between them in nine games in international competitions.

In an interview this week, Neville, now a Sky Sports pundit, said that he had been brought up to believe that elite British, home-grown players would be given a chance to develop in even the Premier League's top clubs, but in recent years he had been forced to reconsider.

On the question of whether a good home-grown player would be given a chance, he said: "You can't be definite on this. No one can be, but my gut feeling at this moment in time is we've maybe reached a tipping point where the pathways are now being blocked and it's not just the case of the cream will rise to the top, that old chestnut.

"I've always believed it. If you are good enough you will get the opportunities. We were always told that as kids. But I'm not quite sure anymore. I'm not quite sure if a player is good enough that they will actually have a chance of getting through because actually if you want instant success then they haven't got time for them to develop."

Neville said that English football had reached the point over a long process during which he had seen first hand how foreign players had improved the standard of the Premier League "immeasurably". However, he cited the growing impatience for success, the fact that 63 of the 92 league clubs changed their manager last season, as an indicator of the dramatic change in conditions for young players.

Neville said: "I always felt that the cream would rise to the top and if you are a British player you have got to fight your way through that system.

"But I feel as if we have reached a tipping point when I see academy staffs being ripped out of clubs. They have to change their identity every two years because if the manager goes, the new one brings in a whole new staff with him. It just can't be right."

He added: "I always look at the very best teams and they have always got a core of players who have grown up with that club.

"Bringing through home-grown players is a strength in many ways – firstly, to have a core of people who believe and understand the passion of the club; secondly, they have a loyalty which means they won't want to leave; and thirdly, you don't actually have to pay transfer fees. So it is a win-win-win to have players come through the system who are home-grown."

Neville acknowledged that addressing the issue of the development of English and British home-grown players is fraught with difficulty, legal or otherwise, especially over any suggestion of quotas. Nevertheless, it is a debate that English football will have to confront if it is to reverse the declining number of English players in the Premier League and the effect that has on the England team.

Neville said: "Obviously we are all English and every time you suggest that you want more English or British players you are accused of being xenophobic. Well, why? It is nice to see local people coming through and playing for the club they have grown up supporting. Doesn't everyone agree with that? Barcelona have seven or eight players who have come through their academy. It is a great story."

United built a multiple title-winning team in the early 1990s with the home-grown Neville, his brother Phil, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and David Beckham, and there was an extraordinary generation produced at West Ham in the same decade, although they were sold quickly. Could it happen again in English football?

Neville said: "In England, I think there are two or three clubs who are capable and set up for it. I do hope [in addition] the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham, who are putting emphasis on building these new, wonderful academies, produce players. They have made those initial investments and have established themselves as Premier League challengers, so now it would be good if they start to see players coming through.

"It can only be good for those clubs. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, will generally try to bring through players if they are there. And this is not a criticism of the other clubs – the ones who haven't been doing that – because they are a different model. They've had to establish themselves in the top four first before looking for the long term.

"So I'm hopeful that in the next few years it can just come back a little bit towards development of home-grown players and we can start to push a few more home-grown players through the academy system. I'm hopeful of it. But I wouldn't put my house on it."

Sky Sports will show 43 live Premier League matches between August and December including all head-to-heads between last season's top four: skysports.com/football

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable