The common believe among English football fans these days is that the national teams chances of success are being hampered by the influx of foreign players clogging up our teams leaving no space for our own players to develop. While there may be some truth to this, there is one other factor that is completely overlooked – that injuries are often another stumbling block in the development of our young players.
Over the past decade or so, the English game is littered with players labelled as ‘rising stars’ only to never fully reach their potential due to almost constant injury and the curse is in danger of striking again on one of England’s latest bright talent, Jack Wilshere. The problem this time is that he genuinely looks like someone that could rise to the top of world football, not show flashes of brilliance only to fade away as many of the people deemed as the future of our national game do. Wilshere made such an impact in his debut season that he finished ahead of players such as Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie as Arsenal’s player of the year.
Although he’s only emerged on the scene in recent seasons, he’s already missed an entire campaign because of injury and that is extremely detrimental to his progress. Though it doesn’t seem to affect the way he plays, Arsene Wenger is still only able to play him for certain amounts of time due to fear of a reoccurrence of the injury, which shouldn’t be happening at this stage in his career, he should be able to play every game. Luckily his injury troubles don’t seem to have affected him too much as he is now back in the England squad looking to drag them across the qualifying finishing line and towards a spot in Brazil next year.
We must ask ourselves why this is such a regular thing in our game. It is the reason we never fully saw the potential of players such as Kieron Dyer, who at one point in his career was linked with a £25 million pound mover to Manchester Utd, Jonathan Woodgate, who was good enough to play for Real Madrid, only for it to go horribly wrong due to injury.
The worst case of this problem is that of Dean Ashton, a product of the wonderful academy at Crewe Alexandra ended up retiring at just 26 due to persisting ankle injuries caused whilst on international duty with England.
Also, Michael Owen, who enjoyed an excellent start to his career, but was blighted by injury through much of the second half of his career, leading to the golden generations number one goal scorer going largely unnoticed towards the end of his time as a player, only popping up to play for Manchester United in Carling Cup games against League One opponents. On the contrary to this, foreign players of a similar standard could still easily play at the top level still, just look at the AC Milan side that one the Champions League in 2007, which was packed with players over thirty, with Filippo Inzaghi scoring the winning goal at the age Michael Owen (now retired) is now.
We must ask why it is that England’s star players fall by the wayside once past a certain age, when foreign players, particularly the Italians have players that can play at the top of their game well into their thirties.
There must be something in the training methods used in this country, though this is hard to believe in an age where football is truly worldwide and our game is full of what we’re told are top football specialists. What we do know is that something needs to change if we’re ever going to have a chance of winning anything with our national team, then something needs to change as it isn’t going to happen if we keep losing so many potential stars.