In an interview with Gary Neville, Paul Scholes has claimed that young English players have nowhere near the same opportunities he had as a kid wanting to play football.
“When we were coming through, it was nearly all English players with maybe one or two Irish or Welsh,” said Scholes. “But clubs now have seven or eight European players coming over to the academies. Surely that can’t be helping the English players when a local lad from Manchester is going to somebody from Belgium or somewhere else. I know the clubs have to try to compete and get these players early, but surely at Under-18 level it should be predominantly British lads. There should probably be a rule on it because, sooner or later, it is going to affect the national team as there are just not enough players. If you think about the area of Manchester, how many kids love football? You see kids playing everywhere. I think about what they do in Bilbao, where they won’t have any players other than Basques. To do what they do is brilliant. It is probably not possible here but I think it would be a nice thing to do. Maybe one or two foreigners but not seven, eight, nine at 16 years of age. They are being signed at that age from abroad and who knows if they are going to be in football in three years? You’ve no idea.”
Neville, who has often admitted he wasn’t the most naturally gifted player of his era, reckons that he would have struggled to break through if he was a young player today.
“I think I would have struggled if I was coming through the system now,” he said. “I was lucky to come through in a period that was predominantly British players and the manager and Kiddo and Nobby (Stiles, youth team coach) believed in local lads. They really pushed local lads.”
When you consider that Neville went on to have a great career, with only 4 players having featured in more games than him for United and only 12 players for England, it makes you realise how many players this country could be missing out on these days.