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Friday, November 16, 2007

Alan Smith talks Wenger-like sense amid a lot of nonsense on quotas

Why the debate all of a sudden on quotas on football? Why has Alex Ferguson, Steve Coppell and Steven Gerrard all trotted behind Sepp Blatter and voiced support for quotas on the number of overseas footballers in the Premier League? Why when the Premier League is arguably developing into the most popular league in world football where fans worldwide are relishing the highly technical play of the likes of Ronaldo, Fabregas, Torres, Berbatov, Elano, Hleb, Arteta is there a call for protecting English players from ‘foreigners’. And why is it Arsene Wenger who seems to be singularly the sole voice in the profession arguing eloquently that football should be a meritocracy based on selecting players based on their ability not their passport?

The fact that Ferguson and Coppell made their arguments directly after playing Arsenal seems to me on the face of it deliberate – as if to unfairly demonise what Wenger is doing in producing stylish winning football that not just Arsenal fans but many neutrals enjoy to watch because it is football at its purest. I believe Coppell when he says that he is not having a go at Wenger and that he admires the Arsenal manager’s work. I have less faith in Ferguson who can’t seem to resist the opportunity to have a pop – whether expressly or thinly veiled - at Arsenal and Arsene Wenger... particularly when they are a threat.

Former Arsenal striker, Alan Smith, now a respected commentator on the game has written a piece on the Telegraph online website today saying that Ferguson, Coppell, Gerrard and Co has got it wrong and I’d like our readers to read his piece. He sums up really well the reasons why the quota call is retrograde, mistaken and should be resisted.

For me, better coaching at youth levels and better coaching at the national level is what is needed to increase the quality of English players and the England national team. An onus also needs to placed on the mentality of English players themselves not to think they have ‘made it’ when they break through into club football with amazing wages but rather to have the focus to continue to improve their game to the highest standards possible commensurate to their ability. These factors, rather than pointing the finger of blame on ‘foreigners' for threatening the future of English-born players, is where the focus should be.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are all JEALOUS.

11/16/2007 12:22 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want readers to read Alan Smith's piece please provide a link.

11/16/2007 12:28 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad to say, with this kind of ATTITUDE among the english football hierachy and officialdom, England football team is doomed.

In the history of football, England won the 1966 World Cup. Nothing significant since then. England does not have good enough coaches to bring English kids to a high level in football skills. And, Wenger is correct; some of those who criticise him most are the ones that benefited from Arsenal's "rejects" - whether these be English or non-English players. AS for Ferguson, he is nothing but a hypocrite; he himself copied Arsenal's style of fast-tempo attacking football nowadays.

11/16/2007 12:32 pm

Blogger Mark said...

I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the Government and the FA. They have washed their hands of the responsibility to nuture youth football in this country and left it to the clubs. The top level of English football is awash with money and therefore they can afford to buy ready made players rather than develop youth. It's a different story in France where they have less money and therefore youth development has become a neccessity.

I am an English man working in Ireland. The main sport over here is Gaelic Football and is run on a largely volunteer basis. I was amazed to find that Laios, a small county with a population of around 100,000 has a youth development system. The 50 most promising boys at age 11 each year are given coaching right through until they reach the senior squad. This system is run on good will and peanuts but has reaped benefits as Laios have dominated the national youth competitions.

My point? If a volunteers can do it in Laois, why can't the FA have a similar system in the England. Why can't FA and Government funding create 10 national schools of excellence, 1000 pupils in each school, where they are given bothan education and extensive football coaching. The acadamies could play each other in national competitons, the possibilities are huge. Imaging what 10,000 17 year olds graduating each year, many of them singing contracts with top clubs, would do for the English game. Those who don't make it would have an education to fall back on, a bit like the rest of us who dreamt of playing football but weren't quite good enough.

We have a population of 55m yet we only have one national school of excellence, Lilleshaw and I'm not sure if that is still running. We should have a national youth academy system on a massive scale that is the envy of the world and it is down to the government and the FA to achieve it.

11/16/2007 12:36 pm

Blogger Mark said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11/16/2007 12:36 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The quota system has worked in Rugby League for years now. The current GB squad is now capable of beating the Aussies and the future of the game, on all fronts, is looking rosy.

I don't agree with providing more 'schools of excellence' around the country. Why not follow Watford's lead and provide an academy for kids where they're actually educated throughout the day and then train on the night (Ajax have had this system for decades). The parents, therefore, haven't the headache of picking their son up from school and then ferrying them 30 miles down the road to their respective academy.

11/16/2007 12:57 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think its an issue of 'skill' with english players, more attitude. Look at recent history, all the bad-boys of the game, drug takers, drinkers, fighting etc... all english. Pennant, Cole, Ferdinand, Barton... all in trouble for one reason or another. When did you last hear of a foreign player attacking someone in a nightclub. for me the difference is english players have bad attitude whereas the foreigners are more disciplined and professional. Arsenal have had foreign players for years and no fuss was made while they were not winning. Suddenly because Arsenal are leading the way everyone moans about these same foreigners. Gerrard, get a life pal. I don't expect to see you celebrate when Kuyt, Torres or whatever other foreigner you have in you team scores.
Stu - London

11/16/2007 1:18 pm

Anonymous Cliffard Claven said...


Sounds hypocritical to me when Blatter wants to bring race into the equation.

Wenger has it nailed when he says that to reach a certain level you dont bring the level above you down, you aim and strive to achieve that higher level. What good would it be to say sorry ronaldo you cant play today, we have to play wes brown in midfield because he is from shrewsbury etc.

Any introduction of bullsh*t quotas would bring us back to the boring days of the 80's and early 90's, the premiership would end up behind the Spanish, Italian, German and French leagues in terms of quality, sort out your grass roots England and your dipso culture and stop looking for the easy answer ie. blame the foreigner!

11/16/2007 1:19 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks for the excellent responses so far.

For the commentator who wanted the link to Alan Smith's piece here it is (copy and paste):;jsessionid=DYVNZ41OBN1NVQFIQMGCFFWAVCBQUIV0?xml=/sport/2007/11/16/sfnsmi116.xml

11/16/2007 2:45 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Alan Smith wades into a controversial area of debate and decides to defend the point of view of the current Arsenal manager.

This is worthy of comment, why exactly?

As for the debate itself, here are some statistics:

European Players by nationality registered to play in the Champions League

1. France 64
2. Italy 55
3. Spain 53
4. Portugal 41
5. Germany 38
6. Turkey 37
7. England 26
8. Scotland 25

Now compare this with their current FIFA ranking (European teams only)

1 Italy
2 France
3 Germany
4 Spain
5 Netherlands
6 Portugal
7 Czech Republic
8 Croatia
9 England

The top 6 nations (all of which (bar a famous Scottish victory!)) should all qualify comfortably for Euro 2008. Is it any coincidence that they have more players in the Champions League then anybody else?

It stands to reason that young English players will improve as a result of playing alongside top-class teammates and/or against top-class opponents. The more experience you have of playing any sport at an elite level the better your game becomes.

Scotland is another good example. Scottish clubs don't have the same money as their English counter-parts, so they are forced to focus mainly on developing local talent. Is it really just a coincidence that the Scottish national team's renaissance is coinciding with Celtic and Rangers fielding mainly Scottish players in the Champion's League?

11/16/2007 3:18 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Great debate, more like it. The issue with this 'concern' over whether the English players are being developed well enough to break through into first-time football in the Pemier League is a non-issue. Frankly, the level of quality you have to attain to to be impressive is high and over the years has been pushed up a notch.

Just think that this game started in England. Objective was to get the ball from one goal to the other. Then there came passing. then shooting. Passing, shooting, and tackling. Movement on the ball, movement off the ball, skills, flair, firm defence, fast wingers, good headerers, deft touches, all of these have evolved the game of football over the century to what it is now. And no nation was immune, was an exception to it, forbidden it, never adopted it. Football can be seen and produce anywhere, globally.

As such the respective nations and states who did adopt it added the basics from the English and added something else, in their own way, Culturally, the Germans introduced work-rate, renowned defence work and a touch to score from it. The Brazilians, the Argentinians added the 'soca' flair, when you cast back to the stars who added so much in Scorates, Zico, Baresi, Scholacci (spelling?), Paolo Rossi. Maradona, Jean-Pierre Papin, Beckenbauer, Platini, Van Basten, Cryuff, Gullitt. Go back further to the likes of Eusebio, Pele, George Best, Kenny Dalglish, a roll-call of some of the world's greatest in their prime, non-English.

There were and are many non-~English players who are superb, more so than the English and as such a lot of the top flight football has foreign players. There can be only two factors encouraging this, just two: Managers are neglecting English players overall, or overall the up-n-coming English players are neglecting themselves. There will be argument to say some of the up-n-coming English players are striving to be noticed, so to speak. Yet how striving is 'striving'? Turn up, train, go through the paces, end. Every day. How much effort is put into 'striving'? I think there is the big question to be fulfilled.

Didnt Wenger already say that he came to England in 1996, some thirty years after our greatest national achievement? And he is blamed for not introducing enough English faces. But at the same time he didnt withdraw Adams, Bould, Keown, Ian Wright at the age of 33, for foreign players. For me, blaming Arsenal is a weak scapegoat direction.

Forget about those who joined Arsenal and have had to move elsewhere for first-team action. There are numerous others elsewhere in the Premier League. There is no hiding that foreign players are all the more seeked instead of dipping into reserves or local or home talent. But I agree with one comment above in that attitude plays a huge part in development. Youngsters need to grasp that skills and showboating, for one, is nice but is not integral football. Doing so much during training is OK because come match day you will deliver, doesnt work with me. No one player has a divine right to selection unless they show they have something anyone else hardly have for a given position.

Take for example Beckham. Loaned to Preston North End for experience, pracitcised his freekicks AFTER training, so at the end it still didnt stop for him. Like it or not, the man has built his following on the results of extra training, of pushing himself more than the required level. Stevie G is there because of his passion for football, all I can say is read his book. Rooney is the same, they both ate, drank, slept football and showed it in training. It is as if some of these English youngsters feel they should be chosen outright because they are there. With the current numbers of foreign players, the level is sky high and it is up to whoever if they want to put in more effort to reach those heights. If you are keen enough, you will make it. If not, you will remain wanting and not getting.

"Gerrard, get a life pal. I don't expect to see you celebrate when Kuyt, Torres or whatever other foreigner you have in you team scores."

Gerrard does celebrate whoever scores. His point was not against foreign players, it was against their numbers. It was not to mean he does not appreciate them.


11/16/2007 3:22 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The likes of Rooney, Gerrard and Beckham are ridiculous examples. Their talent would have shone through, no matter what.

It's the playere on the fringes of the English first-team who would benefit most, if a quota system was introduced.

The likes of Bentley, Downing and Barry would be far, far better playsers if they played CL football on a regular basis. And, so long as Wenger and Benitez favour players from their home countries, this will never be the case.

11/16/2007 3:48 pm

Blogger Abdul said...

Great debate to have in during the international break.

I would support T in stating that the quota system would be of detriment to English football rather than to its benefit. How can you devalue English league football by insisting on quotas with average English players in order to enhance English Football? It doenst make sense to me.

Besides, legally - the quota system is a non starter. Since the Bosman ruling means that EU nationals cannot be restricted in terms of employment.

11/16/2007 4:18 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Nothing ridiculous about it, the likes of Rooney and Gerrard shine through because of what I stated above. Read. Because they come from such a passionate football background is why they shine through. This determination has seen them rise from mere shcoolboys to the players they are. The same determination all of our players should show, whether they be professionals or up-n-comers.

And why would Bentley, Downing and Barry be better players with regular CL appearances? They have played and are playing international football with the national side, they see how CL players play. Not being in the CL doesnt stop one from exceling themselves. The one point in that is Downing could be a much better player with a different club.


11/16/2007 4:21 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me think its so silly to blame Wenger. Arsenal is just one among the hundres of clubs in England. Do you critics mean to imply that if Arsenal cannot "contribute" players for England's team, that's the end of it; that the many other clubs cannot produce the players of quality for England? Is the England team SOLELY dependent on Arsenal alone? Ridiculous!

Secondly, it's not Wenger's duty to be biased and choose players based on passports for his team. Who pays his salary - club or country?
Selection is a manager's prerogative everywhere. So what, if all the players he chose are non-English? NO law is broken, but if a player is not good enough or surplus for the team, he wont be chosen. Examples, Gilberto (Captain of Brasil, mind you), Lehman, international keeper, etc.. If you're good enough, you play, regardless of colours of skin or country. (Ironic not to think that having quotas is not a form of racism)

Also, it is absolutely so convenient to play the blame-game, and target a foreigner like Wenger, in this instance. Questions: Forget about Wenger. Why not blame the FA for doing a poor job? Why not blame other clubs and managers for not producing quality players themselves? Arsenal's youth system, in fact, IS doing their part in grooming young ENGLISH kids, and getting excellent results!! I would agree to fault Arsenal if they do not do so. But to play in the first team, you got to be the best. It's not Wenger's fault if they are not chosen. However, the "rejects" still do benefit other clubs - Reading, Chelsea, Birmingham, etc.. and I suspect that many managers will jump at the chance of signing some of them.

Finally, for debate's sake, what if Wenger's team is a flop at the bottom of the table; will people still criticise him? That, I doubt. I suspect people are jealous and envious of him, thus he becomes an easy scapegoat!

11/16/2007 7:09 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Commenting on the above:

If England is the "mother" of football, and has now not been producing "quality children" (i.e., international players), the blame is on the way the "parents" (FA, clubs, academy, etc) "train" their "children. That's why!

11/16/2007 7:15 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction to above:

"The blame is on the parents for m\not training the children well.

11/16/2007 7:17 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"However, the "rejects" still do benefit other clubs - Reading, Chelsea, Birmingham, etc.. and I suspect that many managers will jump at the chance of signing some of them."

Yes, the rejects. Bentley, Pennant, Sidwell, Taylor, a few English names thrown out. Eboue is better than Bentley? Almunia better than Taylor? Pennant has given Liverpool some width. Are you sure these players are not good enough? Bentley gets into the England squad. Sidwell is bought by Chelsea. Why couldn't they get into the first team Arsenal?

"Finally, for debate's sake, what if Wenger's team is a flop at the bottom of the table; will people still criticise him? That, I doubt. I suspect people are jealous and envious of him, thus he becomes an easy scapegoat!"

Err, hello? Duff head?? Arsenal are not. Wenger has had players come through Arsenal and kept them behind until they want out and go elsewhere. They have the talent, he has not had the patience, prefers foreign players. Simple as. Nothing to do with jealousy, Wenger is the main culprit.

Liverpool are culprits too. Gerrard and Carragher the only English players, they have Guthrie at Bolton, Jack Hobbs, Craig Linfield. Scott Carson cant get in anywhere cos of Reina. Man Utd have Rooney, Hargreaves, Carrick, Neville, Brown for England. Chelsea have Terry, Coles, Wright Phillips, Bridge, Lampard. Who has won titles recently? Speaks volumes, mate.

11/17/2007 9:26 am

Blogger Skipper said...

This is a great debate. The Premiership is undoubtedly the best league in the world and if it wants this global image to continue then restriction placed on the number of foreign players will simply tarnish this image and it will not be good for the game.

Of course, it is worrying that England continue to fail at an international level. I don’t think this is caused by the foreign players, after all we did not have many foreign players in the 70s 80s and early 90s so why did England not win any trophies in that period. The answer is simple, English football has failed at the grass root level. We don’t train our youngsters in the right way, there is too much focus on “power” passion” “the bulldog spirit” “never say die attitude”. I am not in any way suggesting that these attributes are bad, far from it. These are attributes that any professional footballer should possess and does not need to develop.

What they need to do is focus on the technical abilities which you see in Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Holland, Argentina, Russia and so on.
In summary, we need to focus on producing players through the academy by focusing on technique and not the bulldog spirit. I also think if a player is good enough then he will come through the system regardless of foreign competition.

11/17/2007 1:18 pm


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