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Thursday, July 4, 2013
Englishness of clubs, UCL regulars

Richard Jolly

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPNFC's team of football anoraks at asknorman@hotmail.com and they will try to answer as many as possible. Newcastle had ten foreign players on the pitch when they lost 6-0 to Liverpool last season, with some pundits bemoaning their lack of English identity. I'm interested to know how teams with more English players do as compared to teams who play more foreign players. Is there a correlation that could make an argument for, or against, having a squad with a high concentration of English players? Luke Wronski asked. I decided to assess this by the number of players who appeared in 20 or more Premier League games last season (20 being a majority of the 38 fixtures). The results, with the teams in their actual finishing position, are as follows. So does an English core help? It isn't quite as simple as that. West Ham were the only team whose majority of regulars were English - Andy Carroll, Carlton Cole, Matt Jarvis, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Gary O'Neil, Matt Taylor and James Tomkins all playing at least 20 times, and they exceeded many expectations by finishing tenth. However, they were only two points ahead of the least English side, Fulham, for whom Steve Sidwell was the only one to reach the 20-game barrier. Champions Manchester United scored eighth in the Englishness table, more than any of their immediate rivals. Tottenham (sixth) and Liverpool (joint fourth) relied more on the homegrown contingent. In contrast, Chelsea were a lowly 15th, with only Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole playing 20 times, although Ryan Bertrand did appear in 19 games. So, too, did two of Newcastle's Englishmen, Mike Williamson and Danny Simpson; had both been picked once more often, their English percentage would have gone up to 27, the same as QPR's. However, the problem with this table reflects a broader issue: how to define Englishness? We went for the country a player has represented or, if not a full international, at junior level. Nationality, however, is a complicated issue: Newcastle's Shola Ameobi counts as a foreigner because he has played for Nigeria, the country of his birth, though he is also a Geordie. And while three of the bottom five in the actual 2012-13 Premier League table (Newcastle, Wigan and Reading) finish in the lowest four in the English table, there are complications with each. Wigan have only one Englishman, and had Callum McManaman, who played exactly 20 times, missed another game, they would have had none. Yet the Aylesbury-born Barbados international Emmerson Boyce was a regular and, according to our criteria, a foreigner. The most remarkable example was at Reading, where five English-born players  Jem Karacan, Mikele Leigertwood, Adrian Mariappa, Jobi McAnuff and Garath McCleary - have all opted to play international football for the countries of their ancestors. Were they classed as English, then the Royals would have been 58% English and would have displaced West Ham as the league leaders - and, as Reading were relegated, could have produced the suggestion that clubs are better off recruiting non-Brits. One other to note is Swansea, who had three English regulars in Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Leon Britton, but are actually a Welsh club. Two Wales internationals, Ben Davies and Ashley Williams, also made 20 appearances so Swansea were 25% English and 17% Welsh. Expand 'English' to British and the table changes: Manchester United, for example, become 50% British because of the Welshman Ryan Giggs and the Northern Ireland international Jonny Evans. So do Tottenham, because of Gareth Bale. Expand it to British and Irish and Stoke become 69% local. If the numbers lend themselves to a conclusion, however, it may be that it is not as simple as saying clubs have too few English players. Arsenal has qualified for the Champions League for 16 consecutive seasons. Is there another team that can equal or better that record? Dave from Malaysia asked Only two, and a predictable two at that. Come September, Manchester United will be competing in the Champions League for the 18th successive season. The last year they missed out was 1995-96, when they were briefly in the UEFA Cup following Blackburn Rovers' Premier League title triumph. From 1998-99 onwards, both United and Arsenal have filled two of England's places in the premier European competition. Meanwhile, Real Madrid are only a season behind United. They did not play in the Champions League in 1996-97 but did in 1997-98 - when they won the competition - and in every subsequent season since.


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