The age-old debate of Club v Country raises it’s head again as England prepare for two international friendlies.
As the Premier League takes a backseat to international football, many fans are questioning the commitment of players to the national team. England faces Germany and Brazil, yet several players have been withdrawn by their clubs from contention due to injury. The number of withdrawals is met with some cynicism.
Club v Country
Representing your country should be the pinnacle of a player’s career and it doesn’t get better than playing against the likes of Germany and Brazil. If this is the case, why do so many players pull out from the squad? Is it really due to picking up injuries? Or do they have a loyalty towards their clubs which makes them not want to represent the country?
Tottenham trio Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Harry Winks have recently dropped out of the squad due to injury. As have Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, and Fabian Delph. It has allowed several other players to be called up to replace them, but do they have a preference for club football?
Could it just be that international football isn’t as glamorous anymore? It’s not as exciting as the Premier League; or as rewarding financially. If England gets beat in both upcoming games, then people will hardly blink an eye. If Manchester City gets beaten by Brighton then it is all over the media for weeks to come. England games can be boring at times without any atmosphere, which hardly attracts television audiences.
It’s true that club football captures the imagination more than international games. Modern technology allows us access to a wealth of information about our favoured clubs. It is on TV, on the internet, in papers and books. So why doesn’t international football have the same appeal?
Lack of interest
Ask most professional footballers what they would rather win, the World Cup or Champions league and I bet most would opt for the latter. It’s why most will retire from the international arena long before they hang up their club boots.
International competitions come around every two years. The media hype always gathers pace at the beginning of a tournament but hardly ever in the proceeding years. Why? Because the national team isn’t interesting?
Most of us would love to see England do well. But if we all look in our hearts, most would want to see their club’s win trophies over success of the national team.
Club v Country
A recent poll on twitter asked users if they would rather play for their country or their club. Would they rather represent their nation or turn out for their day-to-day employer.
At the time of writing, the poll has received 276 votes. 62% believe that playing for their club is more important than pulling on a national jersey.
This is a problem that won’t just go away. It’s not even something that the FA can rectify. Our whole culture is based this way. Yes, representing your country is the highest accolade a sportsperson can receive. Gaining your first cap is probably a day you’ll never forget. But at the end of the day, many players see their day job as being more important.
It may not be common knowledge but players don’t get paid to play for England. Is this a factor for putting club’s first? So how can the reputation of the national game be improved?
Money is a massive issue in the game. Transfer fees and wages continue to rise with no end in sight. A top earner used to collect wages of £20,000 a week. A youth team player at a club would now command such a salary. Whilst players are earning this sort of money, the desire to represent their country is probably not what it should be.
Managers also have to share a portion of the blame. Quite rightly they have to protect their assets. A superstar forward getting injured in a “meaningless” friendly could mean the difference between winning the league or finishing second.
So what will happen in the future? It’s doubtful whether anything will change. Money and quick results are more important in today’s game than loyalty – as shown in the recent high profile sacking of Frank de Boer and Ronald Koeman.
Unless the national team start improving in performances and not just results, it is unlikely that interest in England games will improve. That being said, the recent World Cup wins for England’s youth teams has garnered much attention. Let’s hope that these youngsters can push on into the senior team and capture the interest of an underperforming nation.
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