I know I’ve talked about this before, but that was before the old East Lower meltdown, and anyway, it’s back in the news, so here we go againâ€¦
UEFA has finally gone ahead with its plan to increase the amount of ‘home-grown’ talent in a club’s vault, and in classic European fashion, it’s been pushed through despite the reservations of some of the big European clubs (ours included). From the season after next, we’ll need to have four home-grown players in our 25-man European squad.
Of course, the key to the equation here are the words ‘home’ and ‘grown’. For that season (2006-7), we’ll need two players developed in our own academy, plus two developed in another academy within our national association.
Although it won’t apply to the Premier League, it’s clear that, should it go ahead, it’s going to have wide repercussions, if not initially then certainly by 2008, when the quotas (a favourite EU word if ever there was one) rise to eight.
If a player has spent three years in an academy between the age of 15 and 21, he is ‘home-grown’, regardless of his nationality, something that bypasses EU rules on freedom of movement.
And there’s the loophole, folks: To stick to the rules, clubs will end up bringing in players from Europe at an even younger age.
Here’s the proof already – Taylor, Cole, Aliadiere, Cesc, Bentley, Hoyte and Campbell all qualify, while Senderos and Clichy, amongst others, will in another year. Four of those young players are not English.
The rules were introduced to encourage more English players to be brought through at English clubs (or Spanish at Spanish clubs, etc), but they’re flawed from the outset because, under European law, you can’t push one nationality ahead of another.
I’ve always advocated Wenger bringing in more English players, but with almost no exceptions (arguments about Upson and Taylor rumble on), he’s never ditched a player who was English, and who has gone on to be a world-beater.
If there’s an English player available at the club who is as good as, or better than, the first-team player he is trying to oust, he’ll get a game, as has been proved by Cole, Hoyte and Bentley. But the same applies â€“ rightly â€“ to young Swiss, Italian or Martian boys – indeed players from all galaxies.