The Championship, the ‘wonder kids’ shop window!
November 16, 2010 10 Comments
It was just last week Fabio Capello announced his new look England squad. Despite containing the likes of Ferdinand and Gerrard, superstars of the world game there was also space for the Championships top scorer Jay Bothroyd. The majority of the public are quick to disregard Championship players as not good enough to play international football at the top level. Whether this is correct or not I will leave for another day, however an interesting fact when looking at the squad is that high proportion of the squad selected to play France on Wednesday came though youth systems outside of the Premier League.
Players who have been on the scene for quite a while now such as; Green (Norwich), Jagielka (Sheffield United) and Lescott (Wolves) all made their mark on the Championship before signing for big Premier League clubs but it’s the resurgence of young players in the squad, that have come through lower league clubs that has been particularly eye catching. Smalling (Maidstone United), Walcott (Southampton), Ashley Young (Watford), Adam Johnson (Middlesborough), and Andy Carroll (Newcastle) all have played for, or have come through the youth set-up of clubs at a lower level than the Premier League.
With the top Premiership clubs now scouring the world for the next big stars, is it that they have forgotten about Britain, leaving the Championship clubs to bring through Britain’s young talent?
Look no further than Southampton for an answer. The beginning of the 2010/2011 Premier League season has belonged to one player….Gareth Bale. Bale has not only shone in the Premier league but he has also used his form and ability, to destroy current European Champions Inter Milan. But it wasn’t Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea or even Tottenham who discovered Bale… no, it was the now League 1 side Southampton. Bale was just 16 when he made his debut for Southampton (making him the second youngest player to play for Southampton). Playing 40 Championship games between 2006 and 2007 Bales ability to cross the ball, run at defenders and score from dead ball situations caught the eye of the Premier league big boys. In 2007 Bale signed for Tottenham and now appears to have the world at his feet.
Its not just Bale that the Premier League has Southampton to thank for. England ace Theo Walcott also began his career at the Saints. Walcott
made his debut for Southampton in 2005. His pace and skill lead to him moving to Premier league giants Arsenal in 2006 for 5million pounds (rising to 12 dependent on appearances). People were quick to compare Walcott to Arsenal great Thierry Henry. His time at Arsenal has been quite turbulent, highs including his Champions league brace against Barcelona and lows such as not being included in Fabio Capello’s 2010 England World Cup squad. But what you can say about Theo Walcott is that his stand alone season in the Championship most certainly prepared him for the highs and lows ahead.
Although Walcott and Bale were far from finished articles at Southampton (and still aren’t finished articles), their experiences playing at a lower league club has not only given them an introduction to first team football (which they would not have had in the Premier league), but both players are level headed! They seem mentally focused compared to other young players who have come through top Premier league clubs.
What is interesting, is that both players Walcott and Bale slipped through the net of the Premier league’s top youth systems. With Chelsea’s Man United’s and Arsenal’s academies containing as many foreign players as British players, the clubs are using their resources to explore the world and are consequently missing top British talent.
The Championship has also given a kick start to the careers of current England players Adam Johnson and Andy Carroll. Their clubs misfortune has meant that they have been able to prosper. Both Middlesborough and Newcastle were relegated two seasons ago meaning that both clubs saw exits of their expensive star players. Consequently both teams looked to their youth teams to fill the void set by their departing, in-effective stars.
Despite making the odd appearance in the Premier league Adam Johnson quickly showed that he had the ability to make a name for himself in the Championship. The league gave him the chance to showcase his ability and to develop whilst playing regular football. Consequently it was the riches of Manchester City that bought Johnson in February 2010. Since joining City he has gone on to star for both City and England.
Carroll also had played the odd Premier league game but he also used the Championship to develop his game. Being a ‘big’ striker as a young player Carroll had the ability but he didn’t have the strength. The Championship allowed him to develop in a more physical league where he was able to adapt his game to suit this football. His 17 goals in 39 games definitely made the big boys take notice but the question was, could he do it at the top level? Well his form at the beginning of this season has shown that he definitely can. 7 goals in 13 games make’s him one of the top scorers in the Premier League and as a result he has been rewarded with his first England call-up.
Now what is evident from Carroll and Johnson is that they have always had ability but playing regular Championship football has meant that they have been able to showcase their ability, which they would not have been able to do in the Premier league. Consistent first team football has also meant that they have been able to develop their games allowing them to thrive, whilst other young players playing for top Premier league clubs haven’t even been given a chance.
Are Championship clubs bringing through Britain’s next big stars? Yes they are… Bale, Walcott, Carroll and Johnson all have the Championship to thank for their current status’. However there are still players coming through Premier league clubs such as Wilshere, Joe Hart and Micah Richards who inevitably will be England stars. What will be interesting is how far can these players influenced by the Championship go?
Read a similar blog post by upper90magazine: ‘Does England lack talent?’ http://wp.me/p19VFF-u
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