The international break is a challenging time for many fans, especially when you only have meaningless friendlies to contend with (although England’s match with France quite rightly took on extra significance following the Paris attacks).
However, with no players anywhere near the England side, should Newcastle United be concerned by their lack of contribution to the national side of the country they play their football in?
Over the past few years, Newcastle’s representation in the England fold has been minimal to say the least. In fact the last Newcastle player to play any minutes for England was Andy Carroll way back in November 2010, just prior to his big money move to Liverpool.
Whilst Jack Colback and Steven Taylor have earned call ups without playing any minutes due to injury and non-selection, 5 barren years have passed since a Newcastle player clocked up any minutes on the pitch for the England senior team.
The main contributing factor to the above would appear to be Newcastle’s transfer policy. There has been very little value in the English market over many years, especially when it comes to English (or British) players. Andy Carroll is testament to this. £35 million and £15 million fees for an injury-prone player does not represent value for money.
As a result, Graham Carr has spent most of his time at Newcastle scouting other markets, for unproven players that can be developed and sold on for a profit. France and Holland have been his markets of choice, with a very hit or miss record. For every Yohan Cabaye there is a Remy Cabella.
Newcastle’s recent forays into the English market have only produced Jack Colback (who arrived on a free transfer and was very much an Alan Pardew signing), and the Jamal Lascelles/Karl Darlow double deal last summer from Nottingham Forest.
The latter deal even baffled many Forest fans, with both Lascelles and Darlow then putting in a poor season last time round. Maybe a change of scenery for both was needed in order to progress their obvious potential, with Lascelles particularly impressing in his (very) few appearances so far.
Should Newcastle’s transfer approach change going forward?
Dele Alli and Jamie Vardy have proved there are many gems in the lower leagues, who just need to be given that chance. Indeed Newcastle were after Alli last season whilst at MK Dons, but the player (quite rightly) chose Tottenham.
Whether Newcastle could have pushed the boat out further is unknown, but Alli’s performances this season and against France, show that Spurs have got themselves a bargain, whilst Newcastle have missed out.
Tottenham’s young English contingent this season have excelled, not losing a game since the opening day defeat to Manchester United.
A core of Alli, Ryan Mason, Eric Dier and Harry Kane have excelled, complemented by players such as Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen (both still only 23).
When asked about the young age of his squad, Mauricio Pochettino recently commented, “I’m not afraid to play them. If they deserve to play and show character and maturity to be given the responsibility, I will play them. But for that, you need to build the player.”
The latter struck a chord, and was one of the more damning indictments of the Alan Pardew reign (and the reason why I believe Alli made the right choice for his career in choosing Spurs). Newcastle’s record on developing young players is awful.
Early signs indicate Steve McClaren’s approach is different.
Renowned for his development of young players, McClaren has already shown he is not afraid to throw players into the deep end. Kevin Mbabu’s performances against Chelsea and Man City were excellent. His balanced approach to Florian Thauvin’s introduction to the English game also deserves credit. Whilst neither are English, the handling of both is encouraging.
Peter Beardsley and Dave Watson need to work closely with the likes of McClaren and Ian Cathro in order to bring the best out of Newcastle’s youngsters.
Adam Armstrong is excelling on loan at Coventry, whilst Cal Roberts is showing promise for the development squad. Should Rolando Aarons sort out his injury problems, Newcastle could have a hell of a player on their hands.
Armstrong is widely heralded by Newcastle fans as the next big thing, but banging in the goals in League One is a different proposition to the Premier League. Spending the rest of the season at Coventry, then on loan with a Championship side next year, would do wonders for his development.
Too many youngsters have shown promise but then fell by the wayside – Gael Bigirimana has just joined Armstrong on loan at Coventry. Memories of his sensational goal against Wigan back in 2012 must seem a long way away for the forgotten midfielder. The likes of Adam Campbell and Tamas Kadar are other players whose projected bright futures never materialised.
So whilst Newcastle should continue to find hidden gems abroad, extra emphasis needs to be placed on scouring the lower leagues, even non-league (including the local Northern League scene). Just because this route is not as traditional as many who grace the Premier League follow, does not mean it should be discounted.
Vardy, Charlie Austin, Chris Smalling, even as far back as John Barnes and Les Ferdinand, prove good footballers are good footballers, no matter where they come from.
With reported interest in the likes of Che Adams at Sheffield United, let’s hope the days of Newcastle’s shameful contribution to the England set-up is coming to an end.
Whilst if the past few years have taught us anything, it is that an English soul has been sorely missing from Newcastle’s multi-national dressing room.
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