Can Lower League Players Cut It In The Premier League? The Argument Broken Down

With the number of British based players playing in the Premier League now reaching an all-time low, coupled with the vast proportion of signings by top flight sides coming from outside of the UK – it has to be questioned – why do so few times take a gamble on players from the lower leagues?

Is the argument valid?

Before we begin it is probably worth investigating whether there is actually substance to the belief that Premier League clubs are shopping solely abroad. Unfortunately it doesn’t take much research to back up the theory – with just three Premier League clubs having signed players from a club in the football league who have not got extensive top flight experience (this excludes players signed from sides relegated from the Premier League last season). Norwich City have signed Nathan Redmond from Birmingham, whilst both Crystal Palace and Cardiff have signed players from the division which they played in last year – perhaps unsurprising given that both clubs have first-hand experience of the resources in the Championship.

Evidence In favour of shopping in the football league

The next thing to ask is whether history highlights that players can make the step up on a consistent basis – the evidence would suggest that the so called leap in standards might not be as huge as is made out.

Firstly, it’s worth highlighting the success of sides such as Swansea, Norwich and Southampton, all teams who have been promoted in recent years and had significant success with a large proportion of their squads being made up of individuals who gained them their place in the promised Land. Ashley Williams, Nathan Dyer, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Wes Hoolahan and Russell Martin are just a small section of the names who fit into this group.

As well as that, there out countless examples of players who have been signed in recent years from the Championship and below and been Premier League hits. Aston Villa pair Matthew Lowton and Ashley Westwood both more than held their own last season after being signed from clubs outside the top two divisions, Robert Snodgrass was a key performer for Norwich last term having been signed from Leeds in the summer, and Shane Long has been a consistent performer for West Brom since arriving from Reading a couple of years ago.

You might think there are countless examples of failures, yet that is not the case. Of course there are some such as Lucianno Becchio joining Norwich, but with any type of signing there will be success stories and failures.

Is the talent out there?

Some might suggest the Football League simply doesn’t have the sufficient talent to invest in. Perhaps a more worthy argument, particularly in regards to The Championship, is that the best players are often those that are promoted – which can mean signing them is difficult.

Nevertheless a quick glance through the current squads suggests there is plenty to choose from, with the likes of Troy Deeney, Will Buckley, Will Hughes, Tom Ince, Liam Bridcutt, Andy King, Kieran Trippier and Aaron Creswell just a small handful of players who look well equipped for a crack at the top flight – yet none have received significant concrete topflight interest.

Too much of a gamble?

One of the reasons we hear for clubs ignoring the lower league talent pool is the gamble that it represents, given there is no assurance that players will be able to make the step up.

Now whilst that statement is true, it is often not taken into consideration how difficult it can be for foreign players to adapt to the English game – yet teams have not been put off raiding Europe extensively this summer. Further to that bedding in several players coming in from different leagues and speaking different languages is another real challenge that shopping on the continent and beyond can bring.

Players from the lower leagues will settle into sides far more comfortably, given there is no adaption of culture required – therefore somewhat nullifying the view that foreign players are preferred due to them representing a safer option. Undeniably signing players from Europe’s top leagues brings a greater guarantee of proven ability, but whether they can transfer that quality to the Premier League is an entirely different matter.

But there is no value for money?

There is a concept that English players are overpriced – a viewpoint that in the past had definite merit, yet given the crazy money we have seen splashed around this summer it’s hard not to view all players as overpriced.

Long gone are the days where you could pick up a player for pittance across Europe. Yes, there with always be those that book the trend for example Michu but on the whole the cost of players has risen throughout the game.

The impact of the foreign coach

Finally, it is worth highlighting that the increased number of Foreign coaches will bring both a lack of knowledge of the football league and along with that a lack of trust in its resources. The likes of Michael Laudrup and Mauricio Pochettino have shopped almost exclusively outside of Britain for players – highlighting this point.

Overall View

It is not to say that clubs should solely be looking at the lower leagues for players – after all, the majority of the players are playing there for a reason. Further to that there will always be a greater pool of talent across the rest of the globe, whilst foreign imports bring a wonderful dimension to the English game.

However, the trend of late to completely dismiss those players plying their trade in England’s lower division should not be completely ignored, as they are at the minute – for clubs might just find a real diamond or two if they were willing to look.