Which academy has developed the most members England’s Euro 2020 squad?
It is a question I can see being added to pub quizzes up and down the country if England go on to win the championships. And the answer might surprise you.
Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aaron Ramsdale all came through Sheffield United’s academy.
When you consider that 14 of the last 16 FA Youth Cups have been won by Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City or Manchester United, you would expect players from those teams to be dominating the England team. But they are not.
When you go through the England starting XI from last night, the keeper was from Sunderland. The back 4 from Sheffield United (x2), Barnsley and Southampton.
Move through to the midfield it is the West Ham and Leeds access that has been the engine room of success.
It is only when you get to the front 4 that you see players from Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.
After Sheffield United with 4, the next most represented academy are Southampton and Manchester City with 3.
Then comes Sunderland, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea with two a piece.
With one representative are Arsenal, Aston Villa, Barnsley, Birmingham City, Leeds, Leicester City, Tottenham and West Ham.
When you dig down at the players who came through the bigger academies, a bigger story unfolds.
Whilst Manchester City might have 3 academy products in the squad, Jadon Sancho and Kieran Trippier both left without making an appearance.
It is the same story for Sam Johnstone who left Manchester United without even a League Cup appearance to his name, whilst Conor Coady’s only start for Liverpool was in Europa League group stage match against Anzhi Makhachkala.
This is a squad forged in those “smaller” academies, where players are perhaps not as pampered as much. Where they have had to graft to get to the top.
Maybe it is this reason why this England squad is a lot more likeable than those gone past? They do not have the arrogance of the Manchester United / Liverpool dominated teams of the 00s? They seem a lot less “media trained” and just say what they think?
It also brings up a wider discussion.
Whilst “home grown” players often come with a premium, that tends to be only when they are “truly established”.
Maguire joined Hull City in a deal worth £2.5 million. Three years later he joined Leicester City on a five-year contract for an initial £12 million fee. In 2019 Manchester United paid £80million for him.
His central defensive partner was signed by Everton from Barnsley for a transfer fee reported to be in the region of £3 million.
Mings joined Bournemouth from Ipswich for just £8million an Wolves spent just £2million bringing Coady to the club.
Over the years Arsenal have scoured the world to look for defensive reinforcements – but how many of our solutions could have been found had we spent a bit more time looking at home.
We are linked with James Maddison for £60million. Three years ago Leicester City spent £20million on him.
The same year that Maddison joined Leicester, Jack Grealish was on the verge of signing for Tottenham for a similar price.
England’s success has shown that there is talent lower down the Premier League and in the Championship.
We as Arsenal fans should not turn our noses up if we buy lower league layers. They could be the next Maguire, Maddison or Grealish.