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Programme notes: David Pleat

Posted on 11 September 2000  - 12:00

English Barclays Premiership

There have been some great Spurs-West Ham games over the years between two teams that have always believed in passing football and have encouraged good habits in their players.

The current West Ham team includes at least four players - Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick - who have come through their productive youth system. The secret is to get the balance right and make sure that young players that have come through the ranks get their opportunity at the right age or else their potential becomes wasted .

In the exciting game with Everton, Sol Campbell, Stephen Carr and Stephen Clemence were the products of our youth system .

The two goals by Sergei Rebrov helped gain a vital victory - another episode in the early season comebacks. I was abroad and phoned in at half-time to find that we were trailing 2-1 having been two goals behind. So it was with great pleasure that I heard at full-time that we had scored a further two goals to take the points.

There have been some other outstanding comebacks this season. Southampton at home to Liverpool pulled back three goals, Derby losing by three goals to Middlesbrough drew level, West Ham themselves drew level after trailing by two goals at home to Manchester United and last midweek our neighbours Arsenal pulled back two goals at Chelsea .

There are more goals being scored in the Premiership this season. And whereas many thought that the new 'Nike' ball may cause problems for goalkeepers, and our manager George Graham has spoken about the lack of quality defending, I tend to think that there is a better attitude amongst the managers aiming for three points rather than accepting one point.

The most important feature in football at the moment is not on the pitch although it will impact on every club and its players. The threat of a new EU ruling on player's working conditions has been there for some while but the leagues in European countries have not responded quickly enough to give sensible proposals.

It would be a sad day if there was to be complete freedom of movement from year to year amongst senior professionals. It will certainly see the collapse of the base of the pyramid and would cause a crazy whirl of players changing at all levels. The clubs would have no stability, the supporters would not be able to identify with the players and also the players themselves would be unable to put down any roots at individual clubs .

Even now it takes a player sometimes a full year to settle in. The Premiership must think long and hard and not bow to any pressure from the current four biggest clubs in the country who know that any ruling in favour of giving people complete freedom from their contracts would be massively in their favour. The teams that qualify for Europe would be much too far ahead of the rest of the field.

Over the years we have accepted the abolition of the maximum wage which was fair. We also accepted freedom of contract and tribunal compensations which was fair. We have also accepted the Bosman ruling which was less fair to the clubs but swung the balance much towards the players.

This further imposition could have a major downside which would be irretrievable.

Before I left to watch a couple of games abroad we completed the sale of Ruel Fox to West Bromwich Albion and we wish him well at his new club. Ruel had become displaced in the manager's plans. We could foresee the situation arising and I made a gentleman's agreement with Ruel's agent should he become surplus to requirements.

Nowadays that is half the story as Bobby Robson has recently indicated when Duncan Ferguson left Newcastle United and required severance pay. At the same time Ashley Ward was leaving Blackburn for Bradford and that deal was also held up for the same reason.

If a player requests a transfer either directly in writing or through other methods, ie via the media or by inducing his own transfer, then he should have to accept that he concedes his balance of signing on monies which is usually an annual payment relating to each year of employment .

I am particularly looking forward to seeing Paolo Di Canio play tonight, a player I brought to Sheffield Wednesday from Scotland and who was a charismatic character who many may not know is an outstanding singer as well as a very fine footballer when he is in the mood.

Paolo has had a chequered career since he came to this country but I went over to see him play at Upton Park the other week against Leicester City and went home and told my friends that I had seen one of the finest first half performances of any individual player for a long time.

Let us hope tonight that West Ham and Paolo are not singing the 'Bubbles' song and Tottenham can hit the high spots.