sports gazette

Club over country? A problem with modern football

Published: 18 Nov 2016

Has the constant changing of the Premier League affected the way fans follow their national team? Sports Gazette takes a look.

Around the world millions of fans are celebrating as the final international break of 2016 draws to a close.

Gone are the days when fans would relish a chance to cheer their country on against players from all around the world.

Now, they just can’t wait for it to be over so they can cheer on players from all around the world playing for their club.

For years the Premier League has taken the blame for the failing of England teams, but what about the failing of England fans?

Take England’s 2-2 draw with Spain for example. Four of Spain’s starting XI either currently play in the Premier League or have history in England.

This naturally led to a mixture of cheers and boos for players from both countries ringing around Wembley when names were announced.

In 1996/97 Manchester United had 11 non-English players in their squad. Now they have 18.

And it is understandable given the way the Premier League is.

For example, how can one expect a Manchester City fan at Wembley to boo David Silva, one of the club’s best players, but cheer Marcus Rashford – who plays for their biggest rivals, just because they’re from different countries.

Twenty years ago, the 1996/97 Premier League season came off the back of a fairly successful European Championship campaign for England with the hosts only going out on penalties to Germany.

Champions of the 96/97 season Manchester United had eight English players fighting 11 non-English regularly for places in the starting XI.

For the 2016/17 season, they actually boast one more Englishman in their squad but now there are 18 non-English players also going for places in Jose Mourinho's line up.

And the changes are echoed by the other three teams that used to be known as the 'Big Four'.

For Arsene Wenger's first season in charge at Arsenal, the Gunners had just two non-English players commanding a consistent space in their starting line up.

Now, just four English players have made an appearance for them this season - though Carl Jenkinson will make it five as he replaces the injured Hector Bellerin. 

Liverpool's quest for their first league title in seven years was aided by nine English regulars.

Twenty years later, Jurgen Klopp utilises five Englishmen, though James Milner has now retired from international duty.

Though they were not the superpower they are today, Chelsea boasted eight Englishmen with Ruud Gullit in charge.

Under Antonio Conte, only Gary Cahill features for the national team at senior level - though there are some youngsters who could be seen under the new England manager in the near future.

The influx of foreign talent coupled with the declining fortunes of the English national team has led us to a time where simply not enough people care about their countries.

And even if the new England manager can cause a drastic change in performances, the club-over-country leaning could already be too far gone.

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