Club over Country: Barclays Premier League
Contrary to this is the Premier League. This is one of the most, if not the most, profitable and prestigious leagues in the world. Most of the teams in the league are over a hundred years old and have fans all around the world. For players, many have emotional ties to their teams, like Steven Gerrard, John Terry, or Ryan Giggs. For many of these players, they already play in their national teams, but it is the prestige they get by playing with their club that truly sustains them. Compared to the MLS, which has possibly 3 cups that they could win (Open Cup, MLS Cup, and the CONCACAF Champions League, none of which are particularly world famous), teams in the Premier League can win the Premier League title (one of the most prestigious league competitions in the world), the FA Cup (the oldest association soccer cup), the Capital One Cup, and the UEFA Champions League (the most important club competition in Europe and possibly the world). Some of the best managers in the world coach in this league and also hold a great sway over their players. Is it any wonder why, for many in the top tier, international duty, while an honor, is seen as almost a nuisance? One only has to look at the recent spat between Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, and England manager, Roy Hodgson, to see the tension between international managers and club managers. For fans of the clubs, international duty is time away from the team they care about to go play with some other team. The league is their focus and international play is just a distraction. A distraction that can get your favorite players hurt, as Liverpool fans have seen this season with Daniel Sturridge and countless other teams have seen with their top players.
The concern for their players leads many to wonder if it is even really worth it. This comes from the disappointing results and dire play that occurs all to often from the team representing England. Just look at the English newspapers before and after the most recent World Cup to get an idea of what I mean. This combination of disappointment and sometimes unwatchable style of play leads many to not even bother tuning in and counting down the days until their club team strolls out on to the pitch again. Compare this to the US National Team, where the level of play is consistent (and usually better) than the average MLS game and against world class talent. National games are something to get excited about because the Men’s National team is greater than the sum of their parts. When looked at in this light, the English National Team, that boasts such talents as Joe Hart, Wayne Rooney, Leighton Baines, Daniel Sturridge, Gary Cahill, and Jack Wilshere, should be able to play at the highest level. The team, however, is hampered by ineffectual and counterproductive coaching and fractured team play that is a result of players coming from the varied styles that their clubs play.
This comes from the incredibly strong academy culture and the fierce loyalty many English players have to their clubs. This was never so prominent as it was during the so-called “Golden Generation” that had some of the best players on the planet at the time. Steven Gerrard, Ashely Cole, Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, the list goes on. They weren’t able to win anything. A big part of that was that each player came from a very different system and ended up being too individualistic much of the time. Couple that with the clear influence from many managers in the league, Sir Alex Ferguson was openly not a fan of international play for his players, and you have all of the ingredients for a national team that will always take a backseat to the club the player plays for.
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