FOOTBALL Association chairman Greg Dyke has named Sunderland as a prime example of the problems facing the national game in England.
The Black Cats signed 14 players over the summer - but only one - teenage striker Duncan Watmore from non-league Altrincham - was an Englishman.
Dyke cited Sunderland in reiterating concerns about the diminishing level of English players in the Premier League.
“No one can argue that the overall trend isn’t anything but alarming,” Dyke said.
“Last season the number of English players under the age of 21 who appeared in the Premier League filled only 2.3 per cent of the total number of minutes played.
“Only 35 English players under the age of 21 made appearances.
“This summer only 25 per cent of all new signings by Premier League clubs were qualified to play for England.
“Last weekend only 65 English players started in the Premier League, with another 14 coming on as substitutes.”
The former BBC Director General gave Sunderland as an example as he told journalists he intends to have Premier League representation on the commission he will set up in a bid to find a solution to the declining numbers of English players in the top flight.
Dyke has expressed severe concerns about the state of the national game.
He is worried that, if the present trend of top-flight clubs to bring in overseas players is not addressed, England can forget about ever being competitive on the international stage.
Yet, because the FA has such limited power - Dyke recalled one recent request from a club to have a player released from a development team because he was required for first-team duty only to fail even to get on the bench - the Premier League will have to be on board for any changes to take effect.
“If we are to have any chance of success it’s important that football as a whole recognises the problem and buys into the possible radical solutions,” Dyke said.
“That is why I have invited the chairmen of both the Premier League and the Football League to join the commission along with the chairmen of the League Managers’ Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association.”
Dyke also wants input from managers, players, academics and even journalists in the search for solutions.
However, even from his own brief investigations, he is acutely aware how complex the issue is going to be.
“Some say it’s because English kids are not good enough. That technically they don’t learn enough when they are young,” Dyke said.
“Others say we haven’t got enough coaches trained to a high enough level.
“Some of the youth team coaches I have met argue we do have the kids with potential but not enough of them get a chance in the Premier League because it’s easier to sign someone from overseas.
“Then there are others who say the problem is caused by the owners of Premier League clubs being so impatient for success that no manager will put his job on the line by taking a chance on English kids.
“Another explanation put forward by a lot of people is that it is cheaper to sign overseas players.
“Others argue that if your top league is largely foreign owned with foreign managers why should those in control care about developing the England team?”
Evidently, though, the subject is worth exploring for England’s benefit because the figures are stark.
“Twenty years ago 69 per cent of all the players starting matches in the Premier League were qualified to play for England,” he said.
“Ten years later that figure was down to 38 per cent. Last season it was 32 per cent.
Dyke also gave the example of Wigan, who won the FA Cup with only one Englishman in their starting line-up.
The issue is not unique to England. The other major league also have diminishing numbers of home-grown players.
However, what England do not have are exports, with Roy Hodgson’s squad for Friday’s World Cup qualifier with Moldova drawn exclusively from the Premier League - with one exception in Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
“We are not Belgium or Holland where most of their top players are playing abroad or even France, Spain or Italy who are now frequently exporting significant numbers of players,” Dyke said.
“Almost uniquely amongst the top footballing nations, virtually all of our top players are playing in their home league, so if the best of our emerging young players can’t get a game here it means we do have a serious problem.”