Roy Hodgson has cited the increasing number of Premier League clubs and players who treat international breaks as a holiday as one of his biggest frustrations as England manager.
Less than a month after Rio Ferdinand withdrew from international duty due to a strict fitness regime and then travelled to Qatar while England played San Marino and Montenegro, Hodgson has condemned the attitude that he believes is undermining the national team's prospects. The England manager claimed clubs show a lack of commitment to international football at all age levels and that players at risk of "burn-out" should be rested during the domestic season.
Hodgson, speaking at the Soccerex European Forum in Manchester, said: "What worries me is that clubs need international football but the great pity is that we suggest international football should be relegated to a lesser stage because the clubs have the Champions League and championships to aim for.
"These breaks are being seen as the 10-day break that you don't always get during the season. It concerns me that we are guilty of accepting it's the international break so we can give the player 10 days off to go to Dubai. I would still like to see the international break being a time when players go to play for their international teams, and it is seen as an important time.
"If you're a club manager now you've got no excuse. Uefa are putting an end to the friendly debate by putting them in clearly defined international dates so you can quite easily plan your time around these blocks. If your players need a rest it's not obligatory that it has to be during the international break. It can be done during the other 40-odd weeks of the year when they are with their clubs."
Hodgson admitted the problem is not confined to the England senior team. He added: "I grew up in a generation when playing for your national team at any level was vitally important. But even at under-20s level now you have a lot of withdrawals. These are not key figures for their clubs. I cannot understand what precludes a young player from helping England at any level."
Gary Neville, the England coach, told the forum that England's prospects are being undermined by the number of foreign players in the Premier League, with a tipping point having been reached. "Is talent not being produced or is the pathway being blocked? For me, it is because the pathway is blocked," said Neville. "You're not telling me there isn't another Gary Neville out there in Manchester, another Nicky Butt, Darren Fletcher, Tom Cleverley or Danny Welbeck. We have to get more English players in the Premier League. I think the ratio is 35% now. In Spain it is 63% Spanish. That sounds about right.
"You have Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid and [Lionel] Messi at Barcelona but in the Spanish league 63% of their players are still Spanish. We've gone too far in England. We're maybe 20% off. We need to give chances to our own. We can't go back to having no foreign players, the league is better for them, but the tipping point in terms of the numbers of players, managers and coaches has gone too far and we are harming ourselves a little bit."
David Bernstein, the outgoing chairman of the Football Association, has said his organisation may not implement Uefa's proposal of a 10-match minimum ban for players found guilty of racist abuse. The FA is in the process of reviewing its own disciplinary stance on racist abuse, with details to be announced this month, but will wait to receive Uefa's proposal before deciding on its response.
Bernstein said: "We wouldn't necessarily get to the same solution as Uefa. It's not a race to be first past the post; we'll do it at our own pace in our own way. I'm delighted Uefa have come up with this strong penalty and I fully support them doing it – but English football must come to its own decision in its own time, which will be very soon."