The first round of Premier League fixtures make grim reading for the England manager Roy Hodgson – and all those with a stake in the survival of that endangered species, the English footballer.
Of the 220 players named in starting XIs over the first three days of the season, only 75 were English. Of that number, 19 played for the clubs placed in the top five last season – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Hodgson may have noted that one of those players, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, has already picked up an injury.
Therein lies the problem for the England manager. That figure of 34 per cent is just about enough for those who seek to shift the blame for the national team's failings entirely on to the England manager to say that there are enough players for him to choose from. Unfortunately, there is very little beyond his regular squad.
While in Spain, Germany and France there are much more significant numbers of home-grown, home nationality players playing in their domestic leagues, those three nations also have a huge number of leading players in leagues abroad. There are no current England internationals playing outside the Premier League.
The teams with the highest proportion of English players in their starting XIs on the first weekend were Norwich and Southampton, who both had six each. The lowest was Newcastle, who had just one Englishman in their team to face Manchester City on Monday, Steven Taylor. He was sent off. Alan Pardew later sent on the English substitutes Paul Dummett and Sammy Ameobi.
At Tottenham, where there was once a policy of signing young British talent, the club have shipped out Tom Huddlestone, Steven Caulker and Jake Livermore (on loan) with the prospect of Jermain Defoe going and even Danny Rose too if Fabio Coentrao arrives as part of the Gareth Bale to Real Madrid deal.
The hope is that the Elite Player Performance Plan [EPPP], which all Premier League clubs have signed up to, will yield results in terms of home-grown players. But as ever the problem is the lack of first-team opportunity for academy players. If EPPP does not start working soon, the status of the English player will only go one way.
The emergence of the 19-year-old Ross Barkley, who shone for Everton on Saturday, is a rare blessing for Hodgson. The midfielder looks the best early outside bet to force his way into the England reckoning, but as things stand there are too few others.Reuse content