Optimistic Nut Posted May 7, 2009 Share Posted May 7, 2009 Superb article imo. Quite long but well worth the read. Matt Derbyshire is that rarest of creature; an English Premier League footballer who has left to play abroad. Good on him. It really shouldn't be as unusual as it actually is. With the cream of world football colonizing 65% of the top flight, the opportunities for first team football for English players like Matt are bound to be limited especially for a player who, while good enough to be an England under 21, is in all probability never going to one of this country's finest ever. Why not leg it? It makes perfect sense. Olympiacos offered him a 6 month loan deal in January and he took it. Now 13 games in and with 8 goals under his belt, he's doing really well. He was voted Man of the Match in the Greek Cup Final on Saturday. Coming on at half-time 2-0 down, he scored within three minutes. Then six minutes into added time, with Olympiacos 3-2 down, scored the equalizer that took it to extra time and eventually to an amazing 15-14 win on penalties over rivals AEK Athens. The club are also well clear at the top of the league and are set to be champions. If he'd stayed at Blackburn this weekend he could have warmed the bench in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City and enjoyed all the glamour that the life-affirming 15th place in the Premier League offers. Boring! You are well out of it, Matt. Instead, he's won something, he's playing at what by all accounts is a noisy, passionate club and he's doing it all in the lovely climate that Greece in spring has to offer. He's got the missus and kids out there too. The lad has got it sussed. He is a great example that many similar English footballers should be keen to follow. What is the point in just playing in the reserves hoping for the occasional first team chance, or going out on loan to Championship club just to keep fit or spending much of the season coming on for the last 10 minutes? Better to get first team football elsewhere, absorb a different culture, learn a new language and play alongside international players. You will almost certainly become a better player, achieve more and enjoy life to a far greater extent. And yet a cursory look at Premier League club's 'on loan' players and you'll find that almost every one of them has gone out to an English lower league side, just as Derbyshire himself had a year or two earlier. Surely, this is not their only option. He's kept his place as an England under 21, playing in the recent 5-0 win over Norway and will probably feature in the European Under 21 tournament this summer, so there's no argument that it could somehow restrict your chances at such a level. Given the choice of being a big hit in Greece, winning trophies and, on your days off, drinking Ouzo on the beach, or watching the rain lash into the Pennines while turning out for Blackburn reserves at Accrington, surely it's a no brainer. Instead of complaining that foreigners are coming over here and taking Englishmen's places in our teams, why not go over to their country and take places in their teams? There are a lot of 'best league in the world' snobs in English football who think that leaving the league for foreign shores is some kind of demotion, couple that with good old traditional English xenophobia and the narrow cultural horizons endemic amongst a certain strata of society and you go some way to explaining why so few have trodden the same path at Derbyshire. It is a terrible indictment that while the rest of Europe and beyond is prepared to up sticks and come to play in England to advance their careers, English talent will, by and large, not do likewise. Of course, it could be that European clubs simply don't want English players because they are not good enough. Or perhaps they want too much money. Even so, the sheer paucity of English players playing in Europe suggests its lack of ambition rather than lack of talent. There's the language barrier to some extent but not only is English spoken widely, it has never stopped non-English speakers coming to these shores. Are our young men too scared to try it? If you're a success at a club like Olympiacos you will not only be well paid, you'll be competing for league titles and cups and will have a chance to play in the Champions League - all opportunities Derbyshire would never have had in a million years at Blackburn. Who in their right mind would want to spend a year playing in the reserves to two men and a stray dog on rainy Tuesday in Lancashire when you could be winning a league and cup double in Greece and every morning you pull back the curtains and the sparkling, diamond blue Aegean Sea welcomes you to a new day? It's mystifying why there isn't a queue of Englishmen a mile long outside of such clubs. Olympiacos are 34 in the UEFA club rankings, Blackburn are 70. He has categorically not taken a step down, but actually a considerable step up. So where else might really good Englishmen go who can't get regular first team football or even those who can? The best Balkan and Turkish teams such as Steaua Bucharest and Besiktas offer successful clubs with mad crowds, the promise of regular European football and a decent climate too. The likes of Benfica and Espanyol are all in the top 40 in the UEFA rankings, have similar attractions and are only a couple of hours flight away from your gaff in England if you get homesick for the tea, misery and cynicism of Britain. Or go to Germany and play in the best supported league in the world. A few have made the eminently sensible choice and gone across the Atlantic to USA and Canada where you can now find people such as Danny Dichio and Darren Huckerby plying their trade. But these are men at the end of their careers. Derbyshire, at 22 has most of his still ahead of him. Surely, the opportunities are many and varied if only players and their agents would look for them. The same could be said for English managers too. The likes of unemployed but good managers like Aidy Boothroyd and Ian Holloway would benefit hugely from taking on a challenge in Spain, Portugal or Greece. Why are so many prepared to just do the media work until an English job comes up instead of going overseas and getting the breadth of experience and knowledge that they all rightly laud in the likes of Hiddink and Hodgson? They could even follow Steve McClaren's lead and try the Erevidise. Indeed, while McClaren is the target of much mockery, it's greatly to his credit that he not only chose to re-launch his career with a Dutch club but has done so well in his first season. And what mastery of the language too. And there's one final major reason why players of Derbyshire's quality should be playing abroad. If he continues his success, it will only be a matter of time before one of Europe's big boys will come in with big money on the table. He's giving himself a better chance of achieving much more. It might not be the highest profile league, nor be the very finest quality, but a striker who can score goals for a table topping side is always an attractive prospect in a way that an anonymous striker and perennial bench-warmer in the Premier League reserves never will be. Anyway you look at it, there is little to lose and much to gain for aspirant English players if they would only cast off the shackles that bind them to these Isles and flee the nest. The fact that so few do so says much about not only the culture of English football and the men who play it. Link to post Share on other sites More sharing options...
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