Saturday, July 31, 2010


Homegrown's alright with me, homegrown is the way it should be

So sang Neil Young, the former Manchester City midfielder. What the old hippy almost certainly had in mind was reflected in new Premier League legislation that is being introduced for this season, according to an article in today's Guardian. Basically, clubs playing in the country's leading money-making competition, are now compelled to include eight homegrown players in their first-team squads, which now must contain a maximum of 25 players. Homegrown players are defined as those who have spent three years or more training at a club in England or Wales before the end of the season in which they turn 21.

There is, inevitably, a lot of debate about the effects that this new rule is going to have, both on the Premier League teams and on the England national team, which this legislation is intended to help. Some, such as Fulham's Academy Director Huw Jennings, claim that reducing the size of squads will help these young English players to develop and come through the ranks, with clubs denied the opportunity to bring in cheap foreign imports to fill any gaps. Others, including Spurs boss Arry Redknapp, aren't convinced, reckoning that if English players are good enough they'll emerge anyway and that this means that the quality of squads is being compromised by having to include a number of sub-standard players, some of whom might just sit on their laurels (a fancy word for arse) once they've made the squad.

However, the question that is on everybody's mind is 'what does Rage Online think?' Well, one concern we have is the knock-on effect that this legislation will have on clubs below Premiership level. If, for example, Oxford produce some decent young players through their youth system, will they be snaffled up by clubs higher up the Pyramid in order for them to fulfill their quota, rather than getting the opportunity to develop their football education by playing first-team competitive football at a lower level?

In addition, we can't help but feel that this new rule is a sticking plaster being used to cover a gaping wound. The problem with England's poor performance on the international stage isn't really to do with the influx of foreign players into the Premier League. The problem is that the foreign players are being introduced because the up and coming English players just aren't good enough, generally, to enable them to perform at the highest levels, either for club or country. What really needs to happen is a change on emphasis in the coaching of kids from under-9s upwards for there to be less of an emphasis on fitness and athleticism and more on technique and skill. Go to any boys' league game anywhere in the country and when a defender has the ball at his feet the coaches (and the parents and the other kids) are yelling 'Get rid' and 'kick it out'. In the same scenario in the Netherlands, for example, a young defender who hoofs the ball into touch is likely to get substituted, as they are encouraged to play neat, short passes to their teammates to get them out of trouble. Just one example, but it's indicative of the difference in coaching style between this country and the continent, and in our opinion is the reason why England, from being world leaders in the first half of the last Century, is now lagging behind many European and Latin American (and possibly Asian and African) nations in their footballing aptitude.

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It mainly affects Chelsea (only 5 homegrown players over 21, including wantaway Cole, and the aging Terry and Lampard); Manchester City (31 senior players); Wigan (18 foreign over 21s). Arsenal have gotten away with it by getting foreign youngsters and "naturalising" them.

I think it is good that there is now some sort of squad size restriction, as this will hopefully avoid Manchester City signing all the best players, most of whom end up not even on the bench and not getting matches.

I wonder what the motivation is too? The national team won't benefit too much that I can see, as the homegrown quota is too small. If the foreign quota was reduced gradually over the years, that may help, but the Premiership would then become a lesser league. There are only so many good English players out there, and forcing teams to pick the poorer ones to make up the numbers isn't going to make them better.

Perhaps the squad size limit is an attempt to cut wage bills.

I doubt it will affect the lower leagues too much. I don't think we will see any Premiership sides making approaches for Sam Deering or James Constable for the squad and then leave them on the bench in preference to the internationals.
I agree that the effect of this is hard to predict. Three comments:
- having watched a vast amount of junior football, I have generally been impressed by the sportsmanship and commitment to the game as a whole. The players taken on by the league clubs at a young age have, in my experience, been the skilful ones, so if there is a bias towards basic effectiveness at the expense of skill, then it is not at the grass roots level. Much more of an issue is parental commitment in term of transport etc.
- how good is the Premiership outside the top six? As someone who occasionally catches something like Wigan v Bolton on Match of the Day, I'm not convinced that the Wigan (for example) team of international migrants is any better than a home-grown team, or am I missing something?
- surely it would be good if in any way and at any level this rule encouraged local players to play for local clubs. Nothing cements the club - community - fan - local club links like a Jamie Brooks or Dean Whitehead.
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