Chris Sutton is a hit and miss kind of commentator. He opens his mouth so often, and his views are often so clearly designed to stir controversy, that when he makes a good point it often gets lost in the background noise of something else he has said. And there are times when he really does make excellent points. It would be a shame to drown those out.
Earlier this week, he offered a verdict on Gareth Southgate’s comments about Scott Sinclair, where he knocked on the head the idea that our player is below the level required to play for the English national team.
Sinclair, on his game, is easily good enough to play for England; the problem is the arrogance of those who work in the environs of the EPL.
This would not be the first time that a talented player was overlooked because he plays up here.
Sutton himself fell prey to it, as did Alan Thompson, who in my view would have excelled as an England international playing on the left hand side, at a time when their national side had a real scarcity of that type of player.
In recent years, Fraser Forster had to put up with the same nonsense, although absolutely exceptional displays in Champions League games amongst others should have been a sure sign that he could cut it at international level.
You get sick of this. It undermines our whole club. It also undermines the Scottish league. And you would think that the English team was so full of top class talent that they could afford to overlook players based on where they play football; that’s simply not true.
The EPL is a net importer of foreign players, and the one world class home grown player who naturally plays in that position and who came through their own league was Gareth Bale … a Welsh international who would walk into the England national team with his eyes shut.
Naturally gifted wide players are few and far between; that’s why English clubs have tended to pay a premium to bring them in from abroad. Reputation seems to matter more than it should too; it’s why someone like Gascoigne was still selected for England whilst he was up here whereas Sutton himself found his international career running aground.
It’s like those English journalists – and the Scottish ones – who accused Patrick Roberts of retreating into a “comfort zone” by coming back here; the English league is the ultimate comfort zone. So few of its players ever step out to go abroad, with Bale being one of the exceptions to the rule. Whatever Southgate and others might think, the EPL does not produce genuinely world-class players, not in the kind of numbers other leagues do.
Modern football is all about arrogance. Guys like Neymar and Ronaldo exude it.
They are justified because they are truly exceptional, truly generational talents. I hate to see arrogance when it is misplaced, as it is in the case of Southgate – a mediocre boss who ought never to have got near an international job – and his assertions about his players.
Sutton called this one right, as he often does.
Southgate is a mediocre talent in a job miles too big for him … but he is the perfect encapsulation of the attitudes and issues at the heart of the so-called Best League In The World.
You know, the one with Bournemouth and West Brown and Brighton and Huddersfield in it.