March 26, 2012
I notice the press were making a fairly big deal yesterday about the fact that against Aston Villa on Saturday Arsenal managed two English goalscorers in one match for the first time since 1997 when David Platt, Ian Wright and Ray Parlour all scored in our 5-0 win against Barnsley.
Now, I have to say, the whole English player debate has always kind of passed me by. While idiot commentators and rival fans were busy getting in a froth about the influx of ‘Johnny Foreigners’ into our sacred game I was pretty happy sitting back and watching the likes of Bobby Pires, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira rip the rest of the league to shreds.
‘But it’s ruining our game’ screamed the tabloids as we witnessed some of the finest, most elegant, most fluent attacking play the country had ever had the pleasure of witnessing. ‘But they’ll kill the English players’ hollered the Daily Mail as we saw the likes of the Romford Pele blossoming thanks to the opportunity of working alongside the aforementioned names as opposed to David Hillier, Ian Selley and Stephen Morrow.
Even as we sent out our first starting eleven containing not a single homegrown player, an event which signalled to some people the coming of the apocalypse, I wasn’t too bothered. Because frankly I didn’t see what was so wrong with it. Footballers are footballers. I like watching the good ones, I don’t much enjoy watching the bad ones. If the best ones available are foreign and we can afford them, bring them in. This is club football after all, right? If you want to support English players, watch England games.
But the other clubs were officially ‘appalled’. So appalled in fact that it took them all of…ooh…two years to catch up to the idea that foreign footballers were actually not such a bad thing if you had some good ones in your own squad and proceeded to flood their own teams with them.
But there still exist certain people who like to cling to the idea that Arsenal Football Club are somehow attempting to bring down the national game by such atrocities as fielding players that aren’t English. Step forward one Alan Sugar. Who constantly bangs onearlier about how anything Arsenal might achieve means nothing because we don’t have as many English players as Spurs. Well it’s for this reason (and only this reason) that I’m glad we can ram that crap down his funny little beardy throat.
Because the fact is that next season Arsenal are looking like having a distinctly English core. When Jack Wilshere finally returns from injury our starting eleven is likely to contain him, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Not only that but there’ll be younger players knocking on the door too. Benik Afobe who marked the start of his loan spell at Reading on Saturday with a ‘polished performance’ has been earmarked for some time as a star of the future. He’s nineteen this year and despite injury setbacks will surely be looking to return to the club next season and push for that third striking role behind RVP and (if we get him) Lukas Podolski.
Then there’s Chuks Aneke who made a scoring debut for Preston North End on Saturday following his loan move last week. He’s another player long tipped to make an impression at the highest level and next year could be his breakthrough.
Contrast that with good old Tottenham who presumably fielded a mainly English side against Chelsea on Saturday, right? Oh…actually no. They had two. Parker and Walker.
And they padded out the side with nine ‘Carlos Kickaballs’ as Lord Sugar might describe them. Dear oh dear.
My advice would be, if you’re going to throw accusations around based on clearly irrelevant points at least make sure that the accusation has some basis in reality.
Still, Arsenal’s cultivation of young English talent does mean that there’s the outside possibility that England might become somewhat watchable again in the next few years. Although I did read this morning that Glenn Hoddle fancies another crack at the job.
Frankly I’m not sure what he thinks we all did in a former life to deserve THAT.
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