I noticed from comments on my last article that many people want to see a lot more Championship and even League One and Two players pull on the Three Lions. There happens to be a rather large gulf between the Championship and the Premier League. This has existed for some years now, but has expanded massively since the last England B fixture, held while Glenn Hoddle was boss. That should give some an idea how long it is since there were regular caps given out to players outside the Premiership.
It is a hard trend to reverse, many complain how so few England internationals reside at clubs other than the top six. But to a greater extent, Spain is made up from literally two Spanish teams; Barcelona and Real Madrid, it hasn’t done them much harm. I don’t think that’s England’s biggest problem, but let’s just remember how many players on the pitch on Sunday were truly fortunate to be there. There were headlines about Andy Carroll not long after his big money move to Liverpool, how only the year before he was almost sold for £1million. He isn’t the only one, as a Sunderland fan I know only too well how but for a quirk of fate Jordon Henderson would have been plying his trade in the Championship too.
His saviour was Steve Bruce, who later cashed in on the England sub from Sunday. But, Bruce more than a decade ago entered the fold on this particular subject from the other end of the spectrum. While at Huddersfield, Steve Bruce was close to completing the signing of John Terry of Chelsea, yes that John Terry. If he had signed for Bruce, he probably would never have become England Captain, twice. Forget the controversial captaincy; Terry would probably never have played for England full stop. However, by staying at his beloved Stamford Bridge, with their coaches and training methods he has become one of the finest defenders in the modern game. I’ll be honest and admit, until this Euro tournament I never felt Terry was as good for his country as for his club. But he’s proved something this time round.
It does however, beg a rather large question. Do Premier League sides ditch potential stars without being given a chance, and does it rest on, if their face fits? John Terry, for all of his achievements would not have made it without Claudio Ranieri’s timely intervention. If one of Terry’s first starts, perhaps his full debut was anything to go by he’s a very lucky boy indeed. High flying Chelsea on the wrong end of a 4 – 0 first-half hammering at Sunderland in 1999, he was subbed at half-time. There doesn’t appear to be many managers willing to give that next generation of players the chance, which is why we’re struggling. There is the talent out there, but how often do players make it second time around? Not often, and unless that’s at the higher end of the Premier League they’re not likely win any England caps.
Yes there is a fine line between being ditched for the Championship and winning the Champions League, just ask John Terry. Don’t forget those others also close to possible Championship mediocrity; Carroll, Henderson, Young, Milner and Lescott. One way or another they all have been fortunate to gain the right move for their careers, but they are the small exceptions to the growing numbers discarded. For success, both for the Premier League and the national team that will have to change.