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David Pleat reacts to FIFA president Sepp Blatter's proposal to insist on six members of club sides being eligible for the national team of that country...
ANY IDEA FOR giving an English youngster a better opportunity to develop his skills, I believe, should be welcomed.
That is not to say that very high quality foreign players should be ignored, or could be ignored. We have seen in County Cricket that the massive introduction of overseas players eventually led to a lack of depth of quality for the England side. Young players were not getting the opportunity early enough.
This could happen in football but you have to realise that the Treaty of Rome offers a very 'free' passage to most players. I don't believe that Blatter's idea has any chance, in the immediate future, of being introduced.
In principal, he is correct and it is for the clubs themselves to have the policy and the philosophy to determine within the individual club how they want it structured.
Arsene Wenger's point could be valid when he said the fans want to see the best players. I would say, at this stage, that maybe only Manchester United can afford the best players. If they feel this is the case, then so be it.
In terms of the stability and long-term futures of clubs, the breeding of players from the youth system is a far better way of achieving a cohesive team policy and a good spirit within the club.
Manchester United based their successful recent period on the 1992 Youth Cup winning side and I feel this is a better way to go, if we can!
I would personally like to see some sort of regulation that a governing league could put in place. Of course, however, very few clubs would agree to it.
For example, if the league said that in your match day squad of 16 players you had to have no less than eight English players and no less than five had to be under 21. In principal it would sound such a progressive ideal, but it would never get carried through.
An experiment along these lines has been implemented in Scotland regarding under-21 players, but mainly they have been used as substitutes. It needs a brave manager to introduce youth, to identify youth and stick with it.
It was interesting at Anfield before the game on Saturday; I counted four English players in the Liverpool group and four in the Tottenham group.
But I know, for example, if one looked at our reserve side against Chelsea on Monday evening, we had a back four of Marney, King, Gardner and Thelwell (all English boys), a midfield of Ricketts, Clemence, Anderton and Blondel (three out of four), then, up front, we had Barnard, adding up to eight English boys in the group of 11.
Football is not an exact science, but I have to say I do have sympathy with Blatter's ideals. If you want to get to a higher standard at international level you must have a real policy of developing your own young players.
It will be fascinating to see what happens now Howard Wilkinson has gone and whether the FA, which looks weak at this moment, continues to have a strong 'England Team' programme.
Many clubs are complaining, because they do pay the wages at all levels. At the more junior levels it is not so much about the salaries, but the constant requirements of the national team for youth matches - some of them obscure friendly games.
I think the new FA Director of Football should have a big say in how we are going to tackle this problem.
I sympathise with people at the very biggest clubs who may feel that there is no reason not to recruit the best regardless. But if that best means buying ten players from ten countries all over the world, I cannot believe that equates to building a team identity and philosophy.