Former Manchester United defender and current England coach Gary Neville believes too many young players fail to make the grade because they make poor decisions early in their careers, chasing success rather than making the best decision for their long-term career, the
Neville added that the senior England team is struggling because of a lack of players coming through clubs’ academies, which are often populated by foreign teenagers brought in at great expense, relative to their age. The ex-England right-back also criticised the process that sees academy staff replaced when the first team manager moves on, citing a lack of continuity that is, he believes, damaging to the development of young players.
“You can’t be definite on this, no one can, but my gut feeling is we’ve maybe reached a tipping point where the pathways are now being blocked,” Neville said. “ I always felt the cream would rise to the top. I’ve always believed that, if you are good enough, you will get the opportunities. We were always told that as kids. But I’m not quite so sure any more.
“I’m not sure that, if a player is good enough, they will actually have a chance of getting through because if everyone wants instant success then they haven’t got time to develop.”
Neville added: “So we have this tipping point when I see academy staffs being ripped out of clubs who are having to change their identity every two years because, if the manager goes, the new one brings in a whole new staff with him. And then the academy staff go.
“It just can’t be right. It is almost a change in the structure of football that is needed where you accept the manager and head coach might get sacked every two years, but leave what is underneath unchanged so it stays stable.
“ If you are a British player, you have to fight your way through that system,” Neville continued. “We are a global game. The Premier League is watched all the way round the world and we love everything to do with it in terms of the games we watch.
“But, as an Englishman, every time you suggest you want more English or British players you are accused of being xenophobic. Well, why? It is nice to see local people coming through and playing for the club they have grown up supporting. Doesn’t everyone agree with that? Barcelona have seven or eight players who have come through their academy. It is a great story.”
Neville, who made more than 600 appearances in an 18-year career at United and won 85 England caps, went on to say that while the system is not entirely broken, he is not completly confident the requisite changes will be made. “I’m hopeful that, in the next few years, it can come back a little bit towards the development of home-grown players and we can start to push a few more [locals] through the academy system. I hope it will happen. But I wouldn’t put my house on it.”
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