27 August 2011

Refuting a Mancunian Myth

I'm afraid I got a little annoyed by a comment on yesterday's post. One Steve from Manchester responded to my sceptical dismissal of Alex Ferguson's claim that Manchester United had produced more players for the English national side than any other club had ever done by taking me to task:
'"I really don't have the time to trawl through the history books on this one..."

LOL- you mean don't let the facts get in the way of a good headline?
If you think it's a 'Mancunian myth' then prove it, instead of just picking an arbitrary time period that suits your argument.'
I'd not in fact picked a random period to suit my argument, and had merely pointed out that if Ferguson was talking about the present day, rather than historical achievements, then he didn't have a leg to stand on, given that United hasn't produced one player for England's national team since Wes Brown made his debut in 1999. Far from producing England players, it seems that the modern Manchester United waits until other clubs produce them, and then it buys them with the money it's used to imbalance the League, thereby maintaining its record of bought success -- while dissing Chelsea and City for trying to do exactly the same thing.

However, in irritation at this comment, and motivated by genuine curiosity, I've worked my way through Wikipedia's perhaps slightly patchy list of English international footballers to try to fugure out which English teams have 'produced' the most players for the national side. Granted, how you define 'produced' is pretty much impossible to define, given how players usually move from club to club, even in their youth, but I think the one solid bit of data we can use is this: 'who were they playing for when their performances were such as to earn them a place in the English team?'

On this criterion, then, it seems the ten clubs which have produced most players for the English national team are, in descending order:
  • 59: Aston Villa
  • 46: Everton
  • 45: Arsenal
  • 44: Liverpool
  • 44: Spurs
  • 41: Blackburn
  • 40: Manchester United
  • 37: West Brom
  • 36: Sheffield Wednesday
  • 34: Sheffield United
Yep. Manchester United has indeed made an serious contribution to the national side, but even then, six other teams have provided more players, with Aston Villa having provided almost one-and-a-half times as many as Manchester United! By claiming to have produced more players for the English national side than any other club, Ferguson insulted Villa. I wonder if there are any Villa fans who realise what he said...

And as for United producing more players for England than any other club in the world? Well, that's just hyperbole. Of the 112 clubs that I counted as having produced players for the English team, only five weren't actually English: Hibernian, Falkirk, Celtic, Rangers, and Bayern Munich.

I don't how United people keep getting away with pumping out this rubbish. It's as though people are just happy to swallow any kind of diabolic nonsense as long as it's red.


Jeannette said...

Thoroughness and passion seem to be available to you in good quantity. As ( if) time allows I hope to read your passion on other subjects ( riddles of God) in the archive. May the goad's that spark you be coming from the right domain. Best to you and your brother on wheels.

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

Thank you. I do realise this is trivial stuff, when you get down to it, and there are at least two more important things I want to turn to: the series on myths about Catholics that got derailed by Cloyne should be resumed, and there are a few thoughts I want to pull together on the subject of secularism, faith schools, and religion in education.

On sport, my main thought keeps coming down to the fact that I like the way the NFL works. It'd probably be impossible at this stage here, but I find it sad that there's so little real competition in British sport. If the last couple of weekends are a useful barometer, everyone here knows that there'll be three teams fighting it out for the title here, these being the three with the largest wages bills by a very long way. Ah well. Tis just a game, albeit one that a lot of people here care about far more than they do things that matter.

Courtney said...

I wonder if there are any Villa fans who realise what he said...

We dont pay too much attention to Ferguson it has to be said.

However, I wonder if the fact we have provided so many england players is indicative of a good thing. Perhaps its because we`ve missed out on all those good foreign players?

I wonder what the table would look like divided into time periods - eg pre premiership and post premiership. Pre premiership might go more hand in hand with league success.

By the way, which english clubs have provided the most irish national team players? Villa might be quite high up there as well...

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

It might mean that, but to be fair, there weren't that many foreign players before twenty years ago. Nowadays I think it reflects more the fact that United have rolled in money since 1989 on, and so could afford to buy in players that were already proven, even at an international level, rather than focusing on developing young players or taking a punt on players from lower divisions, which has been what the likes of Villa and Everton has done.

(Yes, I know United had a rash of players in the mid-nineties, these being Beckham, Neville, Neville, Butt, and Scholes, but since then there's only been Brown thus far.)

Sadly, I've no doubt that if we could afford to buy the finished article on a regular basis, like United does, we'd do the same thing.

I think the Premiership era is an important new phase in the history of English football, but not to the point where I'd divide it into two chunks. I think a better breakdown would be something along the lines of: Pre-League; League prior to World War 1; inter-war period; League after World War 2; Premiership. And even then I'd wonder if there are key internal moments that may have changed things, to do with the development of professionalism.

On Irish players, God knows. I'd have guessed Arsenal, actually, but that'd be a very ignorant guess. I'm not counting through that list too. I think doing this may have been a factor in the crick I had in my neck in its aftermath!