Sir Bobby Robson said yesterday that England must produce better young players if the national team is to be competitive in international football. The former England manager believes that although players such as Arsenal's Theo Walcott are promising, they are few and far between.
Robson said the number of foreigners in the Premier League should not be used as an excuse for England's failure to qualify for Euro 2008. Speaking at the Soccerex London Forum at Wembley, he said: "Our academies have got to work better, we've got to produce better young players; if we do we'll be able to compete every two years.
"We've had to suffer the blow of not qualifying for the European Championship, we can't do anything about it but soldier on.
"What I noticed about [Liverpool's 4-2 win against Arsenal in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final] was that there were very few English players. It was a fabulous game and Theo Walcott, the English kid who came on for Arsenal, gave a stunning performance."
Robson pointed out that when his Ipswich side played Arsenal in the 1978 FA Cup final all 22 players came from Britain or Ireland. He said: "When you see our Premier League, which is probably the best league in Europe, it's hard to understand that we haven't qualified for Euro 2008. At the same time you only really need to develop 25 top players. The influx of foreign players has enhanced our league, there's no doubt. You cannot say that the likes of Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Michael Essien haven't enhanced our league – of course they have. But all you need to do is develop 25 top players and we should be able to do that."
Robson said Chelsea were in a strong position to reach their first Champions League final. He said: "Everyone has been talking about Manchester United and Liverpool and Arsenal. Fair enough, but Chelsea have been chipping away and getting good results. They create very well and maybe have the best and deepest squad.
"Liverpool v Chelsea [in the semi-final] is a close call but the second leg is at Stamford Bridge this time and that could make the difference. At Anfield, Liverpool have this ability to be able to pull something out of the bag."