The benefits of a foreign move to Danny Ings and English players in general

Over the weekend, Burnley manager Sean Dyche appeared on Sky Sports’ Goals On Sunday.  Amongst the topics discussed was the future of the club’s top-scorer Danny Ings, who of course is out of contract at the end of June.

Dyche was generally tight-lipped, but did respond to speculation that Ings could be tempted to join Real Sociedad, saying that a move to San Sebastian would only be appealing to the player for its financial merit and that someone of the forward’s calibre should only really be aiming for the top of our own Premier League.

With all due respect to Sean Dyche and all that he has accomplished at Turf Moor, it’s disheartening that such a mentality still exists in 2015.  Our domestic football may be the shiniest, the most well-promoted, most hyperbole-inducing club competition in the game, but the belief that it eclipses its European contemporaries is both antiquated and entirely false.

Equally troubling, though, is this lingering assumption that English players have nothing to gain from moving abroad and that their aspirations should be limited just to the Premier League.

That’s not a universal belief but it’s frustrating that it’s being perpetuated by, in this case, someone who has a profound influence on the career of one of this country’s more promising developing players.

Development in sport is essentially about education.  It’s about learning a position’s nuances, understanding the game’s subtleties and gaining experience of how to combat a range of different challenges.  That’s how talent ultimately becomes pertinent at the professional level.

In England we have a habit of creating a particular type of player but, whilst blame for that is often attributed to training methods and philosophies, the players themselves must share some of that responsibility.  The primary responsibility of academies is to produce players who are equipped to be assets in the domestic game, therefore their development programs are tailored to fulfill that objective.  So, whilst every athlete is naturally unique, the weighting of certain attributes in this country - physicality, athletic ability, power - generally prohibits the creation of genuinely well-rounded footballers.

When that’s combined with an insular mentality and a collective reluctance to earn a living beyond these shores, the end product is quite homogenised.  Maybe that’s not noticeable on a week-to-week basis but it certainly is within the broader context: how often, for example,  do we bemoan the English national team’s failure to retain possession or its individuals’ comparative lack of technical ability?

This is where the Premier League’s celebrated differences are problematic: yes, its boasts a unique brand of football and, yes, it can be very exciting, but the combination of its style and popularity creates something of a false standard.  There is genuinely a difference between being very well-suited to a particular style of play and being a great player, and what might be considered ‘great’ over here could potentially only pass for ‘limited’ in another top-tier division.

There’s no one single explanation, but a principal contributing factor here is this apparent reluctance to move abroad.  The Premier League is not only different to its continental peers, but also to international football, so it follows that players who have been bred purely for domestic use - and who have never experienced any other form of the game - are likely to show their deficiencies when they’re removed from the familiarity of that environment.

Think about how education works.  A child isn’t taught one single subject at school, because not everybody is destined for the same occupation in later life.  He or she is taught a range of different subjects by several different teachers, in order to provide the widest range of future possibilities.

English football is the ‘one teacher, one subject’ scenario: every young player is prepared for the same future, in the same league, and their chances of succeeding are determined by their ability to master the same narrow range of abilities.

When you consider the stages of production in those terms, it’s apparent just how important it is that our domestic talent become more willing to migrate overseas.  Such a shift would not provide a guaranteed success, but it would force players to broaden their skillsets and move beyond their single-purpose status.

In Danny Ings’ case, he may currently be more suited to remaining in the Premier League and chasing a move to a Liverpool or a Tottenham.  From a pure footballing perspective, however, it would undeniably be beneficial for him to experience a different culture somewhere outside of his comfort zone.  An alternate style of play would demand a different range of movement, an emphasis on a different range of abilities, and maybe even the forced evolution of his goal-scoring techniques.

There are myriad benefits, but English players have traditionally been reluctant to put themselves in a position to profit from them.

Professional football is an occupation and neither Ings nor anybody else is obliged to sacrifice financial reward for the sake of becoming a better professional, but nobody in this country - Sean Dyche included - should be pretending that there aren’t shortcomings in contemporary English players or that there isn’t an obvious value in stepping off the Premier League reservation.

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2 Comments on "The benefits of a foreign move to Danny Ings and English players in general"

  1. Theo Sakyi | Mar 3, 2015 at 4:11 pm |

    “What might be considered ‘great’ over here could potentially only pass for ‘limited’ in another top-tier division.”

    This is what a lot of people fail to understand.

  2. David Elliot | Feb 17, 2015 at 5:39 pm |

    I think it is important he goes to a club where he will be near guaranteed first team football. If he goes to the top 4 in the EPL he would be lucky to achieve that. With Moyes he would be playing for an ex -EPL quite successful manager, will quadruple his salary and will not be under huge pressure from Day1 unlike the EPL where the media will be on his back from Day 1.

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