United English XI

England caps: Ben Foster (2), Gary Neville (85), Wes Brown (21), Rio Ferdinand (72), Danny Simpson (0), Michael Carrick (17), Owen Hargreaves (42), Paul Scholes (66), Danny Welbeck (0), Michael Owen (89), Wayne Rooney (52). Total = 446

United British XI

British caps: Ben Foster (2), Gary Neville (85), Wes Brown (21), Rio Ferdinand (72), Ryan Giggs (64), Darren Fletcher (42), Michael Carrick (17), Owen Hargreaves (42), Paul Scholes (66), Michael Owen (89), Wayne Rooney (52). Total = 552.

Granted, the first thing I thought when news broke that we had signed Michael Owen was not his ‘Englishness’, but as time goes by and we make the adjustment to having a former Kop hero in our squad, I got thinking about how many good quality English players we now have. Then I wondered whether we could make a good starting XI from these English players. Then I wondered how much stronger that XI could be made if we were to include British players. Then I wondered what our English and British XI looked like compared to other Premiership teams…

Arsenal’s team thanks to ArsenalFCBlog.com:

Arsenal English XI

England caps: James Shea (0), Gavin Hoyte (0), Luke Ayling (0), Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (0), Kieran Gibbs (0), Sanchez Watt (0), Henri Lansbury (0), Mark Randall (0), Jack Wilshere (0), Theo Walcott (8), Jay Simpson (0). Total = 8.

Arsenal British XI

British caps: England caps: James Shea (0), Gavin Hoyte (0), Luke Ayling (0), Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (0), Kieran Gibbs (0), Sanchez Watt (0), Henri Lansbury (0), Aaron Ramsey (6), Jack Wilshere (0), Theo Walcott (8), Jay Simpson (0). Total = 14.

Chelsea’s team thanks to The Chelsea Blog:

English caps: Ross Turnball (0), Ashley Cole (73), John Terry (51), Michael Mancienne (0), Sam Hutchingson (0), Joe Cole (53), Michael Woods (0), Frank Lampard (71), Jacob Mellis (0), Scott Sinclair (0), Daniel Sturrige (0). Total = 248.

British caps total = 177. (There are no better British players in the squad than the English ones already chosen).

City’s team thanks to Bitter and Blue:

City English XI

England caps: Joe Hart (1), Micah Richards (11), Nedum Onuoha (0), Ben Mee (0), Wayne Bridge (33), Shaun Wright-Phillips (27), Michael Johnson (0), Gareth Barry (30), Kelvin Etuhu (0), David Ball (0), Shaleum Logan (0). Total: 102

City British XI

British caps: Joe Hart (1), Micah Richards (11), Nedum Onuoha (0), Ben Mee (0), Wayne Bridge (33), Shaun Wright-Phillips (27), Michael Johnson (0), Gareth Barry (30), Kelvin Etuhu (0), David Ball (0), Craig Bellamy (56). Total: 158

Liverpool team thanks to Liverpool-Kop:

Liverpool English XI

England caps: David Martin (0), Glen Johnson (16), Jamie Carragher (34), Stephen Darby (0), Robbie Threlfall (0), Adam Hamill (0), Jay Spearing (0), Steven Gerrard (74), Ray Putterill (0), Craig Lindfield (0), Nathan Eccleston (0). Total = 124.

Liverpool British XI

British caps: David Martin (0), Glen Johnson (16), Jamie Carragher (34), Stephen Darby (0), Robbie Threlfall (0), Adam Hamill (0), Jay Spearing (0), Steven Gerrard (74), Ryan Flynn (0), Craig Lindfield (0), Nathan Eccleston (0). Total = 124.

Of the eleven British players in each of the clubs’ teams, the only team to have a starting XI of British internationals is United, with an average of 50 caps per player.

City have the next highest number of British internationals, who have an average of 14 caps per player across the team, whilst Chelsea have fewer British internationals but a higher average of 23 caps per player across the team. Liverpool have the fewer British internationals as Chelsea but a lower average of 11 caps per player across the team. Arsenal have fewer British internationals and an average of 1 cap per player across the team.

I wouldn’t want United to have a team full of foreigners but equally I wouldn’t want just British players. I think striking a balance between the two different types of players, British and foreign, is the ideal and that is something Sir Alex Ferguson has managed incredibly well.

English players cost big money though, as United’s £18.6m transfer fee for Carrick, £27m for Rooney and £29m for Rio prove. Glen Johnson’s £17m move to Liverpool was obscene, as is the £600k a week Lampard gets dropped in his bank account every month.

So the key is in producing your own talent, either to incorporate in your team or to sell on to raise funds, which RoM commented on earlier this month.

There are several reasons why having a high standard of British players in your squad will help your team succeed.

Crème e la crème

All English teams will have foreigners who really form a bond with the club, like Solskjaer or Cantona at United or Zola at Chelsea, but whether we like it or not, our clubs will not be the pinnacle of the careers for most foreigners. Ronaldo loved United and did very well, but Real Madrid were always a better option for him, and the same could be said of Henry. But English and British players are more likely to see an English club as the crème de la crème and it’s fair enough to argue that makes a difference to how they perform on the pitch, as a generalisation.

Continuity of players

Another bonus to going British is that these players are more likely to stick around. If you think Arsenal don’t have any players remaining from their 2002 double winning squad, it’s interesting to see just how many players United have clung on to since then. Foreign players will come and go, generally, whilst British players don’t tend to move abroad, so playing for a top English club is as good as it gets for them. For example, six of the players in our British XI have been at the club for seven years or longer. Having that continuity in the team of course has a positive effect.

Grafters

For me though, it’s not how well England do because of the players we help develop at United, more how well United do because of having so many English players in the squad. Having fancy players like Ronaldo would all be for nothing if you didn’t have grafters like Scholes, Carrick, Fletcher, Rooney, Rio etc. who just get on with the job and support the ‘superstars’.

Whilst plenty of people get on their high horse about the effect having so many foreigners has on on our national team (which is not a big concern of mine), it’s good to see that this is one criticism the press can leave us out of!

Having so many British players isn’t the be all and end all to our success, but it’s hard to argue that having so many British players, who are of a good enough standard to represent their country, on average, 50 times, has played a role in our success. Your players feel as though they’ve made it to the big time and have no desire to leave you for Real Madrid or Barcelona, you have players who are likely to stay at the club for a long time, forming stronger bonds with their team-mates and knowing how their team-mates will play without a second thought, and they often are hard workers who put in the hard slog to allow your foreign twinkle-toes to get on with what they do best.