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Why do we continue to castigate the next generation of England internationals?

Martyn Cooke

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Who would want to be a young, gifted, talented English football player in the modern era?

If the treatment received by Ross Barkley, John Stones and Jack Wilshere over the past month or so is anything to go by, then certainly not me.

We, as a country, have a very odd relationship with our nation’s most promising young football players.

The media, pundits, self-proclaimed experts on social media, and the supporters that fill stadiums every week up and down the land seem completely unable to decide how we should perceive and treat the superstars that we see perform throughout the season.

We cry out that there is no genuine English talent coming through the system and then we proceed to build young players up, place them on a pedestal and take the upmost delight in knocking them back down.

This is nothing new of course. From Stan Bowles, through to Matthew Le Tissier, to David Beckham and now the modern generation: any number of mercurial players have been admired and castigated in equal measure.

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Castigating the next generation of England internationals

Over the last couple of months I have observed with an increasing bewilderment at how we, in general, treat the new generation of England internationals.

First, there was Ross Barkley. The Everton playmaker possesses an abundance of technical ability and his game is characterised by creativity and innovation – surely everything that we want from the modern midfielder?

Admittedly, he lacks consistency but it is easy to overlook the fact that Barkley is still only 23 years of age and is still in the infancy of his career.

Time is undoubtedly on his side and as English creative central midfielders go he is already the stand out candidate – his career will only proceed to progress in an upwards trajectory.

Yet, despite this, Barkley’s reward for a consummate display in Everton’s 4-2 victory over reigning Premier League champions Leicester City on April 9th was to receive a right hook to the temple in an unprovoked assault in a Liverpool bar.

To make matters worse, the youngster was then eviscerated in a bizarre article published in a national newspaper that blurred the lines of racism and simple downright personal abuse.

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Speaking of evisceration, Manchester City defender John Stones has had to deal with more than his fair share of criticism since joining Pep Guardiola’s team in the summer.

The near £50,000,000 price tag tends to blur the perceptions of onlookers when they analyse the performances of a young man that has only recently turned 22.

Yes, Stones has made errors this season but he remains the most talented and technically gifted English defender and will play a prominent role for club and country for the best part of the next decade and beyond.

Why is it that we have to continuously berate one of our country’s best young talents? What actually purpose do these continuous attacks actually serve?

Should there not simply be an acceptance that, at just 22 years of age, he is likely to make mistakes and is not yet the end product?

Which brings me onto Jack Wilshere. The general view in football is that the 25-year-old, who in currently nearing the end of a season long loan from Arsenal to Bournemouth, remains one of the most gifted English players of his generation.

His career has stalled, weighed down by constant injury problems and off the field issues there is little doubt that the midfielder has lost his way in recent years. So full credit to him for popping his head above the parapet and going in search of regular first team football on the South Coast when he could have quite easily have sat on the bench at the Emirates Stadium.

On Saturday 16th April, Wilshere was on the receiving end of a stern rebuke delivered by Alan Shearer during the ex-Newcastle striker’s regular slot on Match of the Day.

Shearer, firing away from the safety of the TV studio, concluding that “it hasn’t gone well [for Wilshere]” that he had “gone off injured again” and that his time on the South Coast had “caused more issues”.

I guess at this stage we must assume that Shearer has spent the entire season analysing Wilshere’s progress – or maybe he is simply shooting based on a snapshot of a thirty second highlight reel?

Maybe Wilshere should have stayed sat on the Arsenal bench and avoided making 27 appearances for Bournemouth, helping them to secure a second consecutive season in the top flight of English football.

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Time to revaluate

In England we continuously complain about how there is a lack of talented home grown players and we deride the national team for underperforming at major international competitions.

Yet has it ever occurred that the ‘build them up and knock them down’ mentality that we have accepted within our football culture serves only as a detriment?

I have picked out three examples from the last couple of weeks but there is an endless list that I could have selected from.

Two of the players that I mentioned, Ross Barkley and John Stones, are both under the age of 23 and are set to become the backbone of our national team over the next decade and beyond.

Maybe we need to simply accept that these are young players that are still developing and that will make mistakes. Maybe we need to stop eviscerating young players through national media sources. Maybe we need to stop assaulting players in bars.

Maybe we need to completely revaluate how we perceive and treat our young English players.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved MekyCM (MekyCM)

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Arsenal

It is too soon for Mikel Arteta to be considered for Arsenal job

The 36-year-old has been linked with the Emirates hot seat.

Jake Jackman

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Mikel Arteta
Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal have a huge summer awaiting them as they will need to appoint a successor to Arsene Wenger and rebuild a squad that has missed out on Champions League football for the second season in a row.

It won’t be an easy task and the board must act swiftly to make sure the club are prepared for the 2018/19 campaign.

Considering Wenger’s departure was announced weeks ago, Arsenal should have made progress in their search for a replacement.

There will be a number of names under consideration and it is important that they do their due diligence to ensure they can start to move in the right direction again.

BBC Sport report that Manchester City coach Mikel Arteta is one of the options being considered by the hierarchy at the Emirates Stadium.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

As a former player, he would be well received by the fanbase, but it would represent a huge gamble by the club.

The 36-year-old was part of the playing staff under Arsene Wenger as recently as 2016.

Although he will know the problems that exist at the club, he may struggle to exert the authority to correct them considering many of the current squad were his peers.

It has only been two years since the Spaniard retired from playing and he wouldn’t have expected to be in the running for a job of this size this soon.

Upon retiring, he took up a coaching role at Manchester City and the experience will stand him in good stead to move into management one day.

After all, he is working with one of the best managers of all-time in Pep Guardiola and Arteta will have played a role in the team’s record-breaking Premier League season.

That coupled with his history with Arsenal makes him an attractive left-field option for the Gunners.

However, the size of the risk attached to an appointment means that the club should look elsewhere this summer.

The club will want stability, but first and foremost, they will want success.

The fact that Arteta has no managerial experience means that he would be learning on the job and the North London side can’t afford to allow that.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsenal are a huge club and as the man following Arsene Wenger, the next manager will be scrutinised closely.

It would be a job better suited to a manager with experience and know-how at the top level.

The article goes on to mention both Luis Enrique and Massimiliano Allegri. Either of them would be a better appointment for Arsenal at this time, as they have both managed big clubs previously.

For Arteta, the fact that he is being linked to a job like Arsenal shows how highly he is thought of within the game.

If he wants to go into management, he needs to leave Manchester City and gain experience as a number one.

If he does that, whether it be in England or abroad, he could be ready to take the hot-seat at the Emirates Stadium at a later date.

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Exclusive: Havard Nordtveit – Hoffenheim move, Julian Nagelsmann and facing Liverpool

The Norwegian international discussed his time at Hoffenheim and his experience of English clubs.

Mathew Coull

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Havard Nordtveit
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This summer West Ham United utility man Havard Nordtveit called time on his career with the Hammers, after just one season.

Signed from Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer he suffered from the London outfits’ own struggles, the change of stadium and being asked to play out of position at right-back.

After just 21 games for the Hammers, he headed back to Germany, where he had such success previously.

Now, speaking exclusively to The Boot Room, the Norwegian international has discussed working under an exciting new manager, facing Liverpool in the Champions League and coming through the ranks at Arsenal.

Plenty of teams in Germany would have wanted Nordtveit this summer.

He built a fine reputation in the Bundesliga during his time with Gladbach.

In fact, just hours before his July transfer was announced, he was being linked with Bundesliga rivals Hamburg.

In the end, it was Hoffenheim who snapped up the Norwegian. They had just finished fourth in the Bundesliga and it was a brilliant move for the 27-year-old.

(Photo by Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images)

But, as the former Hammer explained from Germany, it has been a topsy-turvy season:

“It went well in the first couple of months. But then my games weren’t as good as I was hoping for,” he admitted. “Then obviously I was not good enough for the team. I have been training hard and lately, it has been back to normal again.

“It’s good to be back in Germany and also I needed half a season to get to know the new coach and the new system. I am looking forward to the rest of the campaign.”

Nordtveit started the season playing in the Hoffenheim back three, but found himself out of the squad entirely from mid-December until last month.

Despite his problems, he did not sulk and simply worked hard to get back into the first-team:

“I am not that person,” proclaimed the Norwegian international. “I have been in that situation before with West Ham and Gladbach. It’s all about giving everything you can instead of moaning.

“You have to be positive,” he continued. “This is a team sport. You have to give your best for the team. If that means you are playing or not you know that you will get the chance in the end.”

This season Hoffenheim and Nordtveit were challenging for the Europa League.

However, at the start of the campaign, the Bundesliga outfit were in Champions League action for the first time in their history.

They took on Premier League side Liverpool in the qualifying rounds, with Nordtveit playing in both games.

Liverpool were not yet working under Mohamed Salah power but still proved far too strong for their German opponents over two legs:

“We knew they were strong. With their attacking forwards they are brutal. We had a very good home game. But in the end, it is a little better a feeling to know we went out of the play-offs against a team that reached the finals,” Nordtveit explained, with a sense of vindication for his club’s exit.

“What Klopp has done with the club is massive and also Salah, at this time, maybe is Europe’s best player.”

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Hoffenheim’s entrance to the Champions League was masterminded by their brilliant young coach Julian Nagelsmann. The 30-year-old is just a few years older than the Norwegian but has proven himself a top manager:

“He is fantastic,” said an excited Nordtveit. “He has great experience and his own style of play. It is a lot of tactics for every new player. Also when I came in then there was a lot of new things I had to learn quite quick.

“I am now starting to see that I learn something in myself to get into the rhythm that he wants. He is like a young, bright, football professor.”

He then gave him high praise, by comparing him to his former Gladbach boss Lucien Favre:

“He reminds me a little bit of Lucien Favre. He thinks about football 24/7. Small details, always, which can mean we take the three points.

“If I could compare him with someone it would be Lucien Favre, which is not a bad comparison.”

Nagelsmann’s clear ability has seen him linked with taking over from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

The Norwegian came through the ranks at Arsenal, but made it clear that he spent most of his time working with the current Arsenal assistant Steve Bould:

“I spoke with him of course but he was more observing the training. I was more with the reserve team.

“I was more with Steve Bould, the legend. He was quite important for me, a really good guy. I think he was one of the more important guys in Arsenal when I was there.”

Working under the Arsenal legend as a young defender must have been a big learning experience for the Hoffenheim player, who speaks highly of his time at Arsenal:

“I went quite early, about 16,17,” remembered the talented utility man. “It was perhaps the most important choice I did in my career because there I learnt how to do the basics in football.

“I did not play much with the first-team but the experience of training with the first-team and getting to know English football and a really high standard was really important to me.

(Photo by Nikolay Doychinov/Getty Images)

“From there, when I moved to Germany, I had the perfect base to have an OK career.

“Jack Wilshere was there before he finally broke through to the first-team. We had Wojciech Szczesny now second goalkeeper for Juventus. Many of the players are having big careers.  

“For me and a lot of the players we were quite lucky to have this opportunity.”

But Nordtveit still remembers his time fondly. He still follows the club, where good friend Granit Xhaka is also playing.

The Gunners have been unable to put a smile on the face of Nordtveit by picking up the Europa League trophy in Arsene Wenger’s final year.

However, with London outfit set to compete in the competition again next season, under a new manager, the two could well come face-to-face. 

That would be an opportunity Hoffenheim’s intrepid Norwegian would relish.

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Arsenal hero Patrick Viera would be an underwhelming appointment for Everton

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Photo: Getty Images.

The managerial merry-go-round is warming up ready for another summer of action and it looks increasingly likely that Everton could be involved as fans grow more and more unhappy with the management of Sam Allardyce. What may come as a greater surprise is that the club could turn to Arsenal hero Patrick Viera to replace him.

According to Metro, Viera is admired by Everton owner Farhad Moshiri and fits the profile that the Toffees are looking for of a young and dynamic coach to take over at Goodison Park.

Viera has also been linked with the opportunity to replace his former coach Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, where he remains a legend, but is currently under contact with New York City, part of the Manchester City group.

(during the UEFA Youth League Quarter Final match between AS Roma and Manchester City on March 17, 2015 in Latina, Italy.

The Citizens would reportedly not stand in his way of a Premier League move and Everton would be happy to offer more than the £2 million that he currently earns per year, but it would be a hugely underwhelming appointment for the blue half of Merseyside.

Whilst Viera has done well in Major League Soccer in New York, he has not achieved enough to have caught the eye of such a high profile club were it not for his playing career.

Given the finances reportedly available to the next Everton manager and the huge pressure to get an underperforming squad up to scratch and matching expectations, it would be a big gamble if the club were to put their faith in Viera.

He may well have potential, but it would be a surprise to see a club of the size and resources of Everton being the ones to give Viera his first opportunity as a Premier League coach.

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