New Age England

Jack Wilshere this week caused controversy by declaring only English people should play for England. However, could England be shooting themselves in the foot by denying talented youngsters the opportunity to play?

New Age England

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October 11th, 2013

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Jack Wilshere’s controversial comments earlier this week that “The only people who should play for England are English people” sparked mass debate throughout the footballing world as to what the rules regarding representing a national team should be.The 21-year-old Arsenal and England star landed himself in hot water due to his poorly-chosen words. When later clarifying his statement, he said: “The question was should foreign players be allowed to play for England, and in my opinion I don’t think they should. He is a great player. I wish he was English.”

The question of national representation has raged on for years. Players such as Manuel Almunia, Mikel Arteta and Paolo Di Canio to name but a few have all been linked with call-ups to the England squad before, but no England manager to date has gone through with the idea. My problem with Wilshere’s comments were not that fact he feels only English players should represent England – whilst I disagree, that’s his opinion which he is entitled to – it was the fact he thinks English players should be tough, hard-tackling bravehearts, and the technical stuff should be left to Germany, Spain, and all the other teams currently outperforming us.

It is this mentality, especially at a grass roots level, which has left the English youth game, and to a certain extent the senior game, in disarray. We have now gone 47 years without a trophy, so when will we realise the English game has to change for us to start performing? When Wilshere states: “If I went to Spain and lived there for five years, I’m not going to play for Spain” he’s quite right, because he’s simply not good enough to break into the Spanish midfield. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; maybe we should take a leaf out of the Spanish and German books, and start developing our youth set-ups; not by setting up commissions, but by training top-quality coaches who can teach our young players the necessary technical skills to win World Cups.

Wilshere’s comments have not only got people talking about the politics of football, but also the wider social issue. What actually makes someone British? If a certain 8-year-old hadn’t moved to England from war-torn Somalia in 1991, Great Britain would have one less Olympic Gold Medallist. Does that make Mo Farah any less British? Absolutely not. He loves this country, and we love him. In my view, if somebody wants to move to England to make a better life for themselves and their family, they contribute to society and are passionate about representing us, that makes them as English as anyone else. If they’re good enough, they should play for England.

I understand the need for national pride, but at the end of the day we have to realise our nation is made up of people from all corners of the globe, and that’s what makes us unique. People move to England because we have opportunities, and we shouldn’t deny them those opportunities because of something they could not control; their birthplace. Germany, Spain and France all have players who were born in other countries, including Arsenal and Germany’s Lukas Podolski, who was born in Poland.

We shouldn’t deny the exciting talents such as Wilfried Zaha, Raheem Stirling, and maybe even Adnan Januzaj the chance to represent a country they are passionate about because of where they were born. We don’t know them and their reasons for coming to this country, at whatever age, and should encourage our national team to become better. A more sensible solution might be to say that to represent England you have to have played in an English club’s Academy for three years before you are eligible.

Whilst Januzaj may not even get the opportunity to be eligible for England if he moves to European shores next summer when his Manchester United contract runs out, the debate will still rage on. I just hope we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot by denying talented youngsters the opportunity to make England a better team.

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