At the end of August it came to light that the newly appointed England Boss Sam Allardyce had enquired about the eligibility of Steven N’Zonzi. Although his query received a negative response (a single cap for France under-21s made him ineligible), Allardyce subsequently announced that the FA have a department looking at other potential players.
Whilst this should be seen as a positive, open minded approach that could prove incredibly beneficial (like Spain’s acquisition of Diego Costa) it would be interesting to see the Football Association consider players who more clearly qualify for the national side despite plying their trade abroad.
One such player is New York Red Bull’s Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has already represented England at under-20 level. His five appearances for the under-20s came back in 2005 and in 11 years since he dropped from the Premier League to League 1 before equalling the MLS (Major League Soccer) record for goals in a season with 31. This impressive feat came in just his first full season in the States and came from 37 appearances.
In the years since his prolificacy may have reduced, but 17 goals in 31 is still a good return, and certainly an improvement on the scoring rates of some of England’s striking options; something which was again particularly evident during a major competition with no player managing more than a solitary goal across the four games at Euro 2016.
Compared with the likes of Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge who are difficult to assess at club our national level due to long term injuries, Wright-Phillips, who is frequently finding the net, could deserve a place in the squad over those who have hardly kicked a ball.
Unfortunately, there are not exactly an abundance of English players in foreign leagues who can be considered, and the shocked reaction towards the news of Joe Hart’s Torino loan are testament to that. Yet the disregard for Torino, and the commonly held opinion that players in certain leagues won’t be good enough (a view that sees them overlooked) is short-sighted and unfair, as well as damaging to the potential of any national side.
Many British supporters took to the internet to question Hart’s recent move to Torino, despite Italy still being one of Europe’s top leagues and having recently played in Europe, many judged it as being worse than a move to Premier League mediocrity with Sunderland amongst teams reported to be interested.
This kind of thought process is held more severely in regard to the MLS, which as a modern league with different approaches to league structure and player wages is considered as almost uncompetitive compared to the Premier League by many. This idea should not however be shared by the FA.
In the 2010 World Cup for example, the United States outperformed England, topping the group at their expense before going out at the same stage. Their 23-man squad contained four MLS players, two from Mexico’s Liga MX, two from Rangers and one each from the Norwegian and Danish leagues. All 23 of England’s underperforming squad played for English clubs.
Wright-Phillips has already turned down opportunities to represent Jamaica and Grenada as recently as last year and may well decline any offer if received, but at two years younger than the frequently touted Defoe and plenty of goals to his name, there would be no harm in another Allardyce enquiry.