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Quotas are not the answer

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Matt Cutler

Matt Cutler is a 21-year-old Villa fan studying (and secretly watching football) in the rugby-dominated city that is Cardiff....
[full biography]
19/11/2007 10:00:00.
read: 84 times.

Imagine a Premiership without the Ronaldos, Torres’, Fabregas’ and Berbatovs. The foreign contingent in the Premiership is why it’s one of the best in the world. The top players from the greatest footballing countries, not only from Europe but from the world, are playing on our shores.

There are many reasons for this: foreign players open up a valuable resource of players and thus a route to building a squad able to challenge for the title. Abramovich’s millions meant that there could be another team to contest the oligarchical stranglehold that Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool had. Yet also the English leagues attract foreign players through a legacy laid down with fast-paced, hard-tackling and well-supported football. It seems however that this is looked upon unfavourably by many.

When England were on the verge of not making it to the next European tournament, many sports writers became quick to lay blame with the foreign contingent in the Premiership. It’s sporting xenophobia: only this time it’s gone from the front page of the Daily Mail straight to the back page. Just like how all the Eastern Europeans are coming over stealing “our” rightful jobs, so too overseas players are swamping “our” leagues and English players can’t get a kick. A simple solution to why the national team is not performing at the level it should be.

I have many issues with this theory. Not only is it plain wrong to blame the misgivings of the national team on anyone other than English players and the boss, it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Having a significant amount of European and South American footballers in the English game does not necessarily mean that the quality of English players will diminish. Regardless of how many foreign players there are, we DO have good enough English players. At least two or three English players, arguably, would make a World XI. Gerrard, Rooney and Ashley Cole spring straight to mind. After these players it’s not like there is a rabble of mediocracy; Lampard, Owen, Terry, Ferdinand are names that perform at a standard that makes England have a squad capable of being world beaters. And these are names that perform week in, week out, in the Premiership. Only Beckham doesn’t play here. This surely shows that the English-born players can co-exist with the foreign contingent.

One only has to look towards Alex Ferguson’s squad to see how English players can be developed and perform at the highest standard. Manchester United are second in the league and have a starting XI containing at least 5 Englishmen, maybe more. Is this showing that there needs to be a quota on how many foreign players a team should have? Absolutely not. English players thrive at Old Trafford. And the team are second in the greatest league in the world.

So too can emerging talent be seen in the U21s set-up. Walcott is only 17 and Agbonlahor becoming a regular Premiership goal-scorer and prospect for the step-up to senior level. This is talent which is being groomed in the Premiership and is unhindered by foreign talent. The team has an 100% record for Euro 2009 qualification. So too did they give a hearty performance at the European Under-21 Championships last June. The U21 successes under Stuart Peace should be seen positively: that in England we have a plethora of emerging talent.

Before looking to blame other people, maybe the media needs to have a look at why the team cannot perform as well as they should. Maybe the manager, maybe the fact that when it comes to the big games and tournaments, England come a cropper. Leave the xenophobia to the front pages, thank you.

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