By Cameron Dickinson
Since England’s disastrous World Cup campaign everyone has been coming out of the woodwork to bemoan the complete lack of young English talent coming through the ranks in the Premier League, particularly at the top clubs.
The second round would be all the nation could hope for such is the dearth of players available to Fabio Capello; indeed that would be a great achievement in 10 years time when the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ retires.
But the Italian recently received a major boost from, of all things, the Premier League, which agreed upon something that will benefit the game and not just its pockets – The Home Grown Player Rule.
This rule is a copy of one mandated by the UEFA Champions League demanding a certain number of home-grown talent to be registered in each squad.
At the end of August when the transfer window closes, every Premier League manager will be required to name a basic squad of 25 players over the age of 21. Within that 25 at least eight must be “home grown,” which the EPL classifies as having trained in England or Wales for three years before the end of the season in which he turned 21.
In theory this should mean that each club will name more English players to their Premier League squads, which will result in them gaining more first team experience at the highest level. Ostensibly, this seems like cinch to bolster the Three Lions in the future.
Alternatively, of course a club could buy a 16-year-old Spaniard and train him for three years, which would qualify him as a home-grown player.
If a club suffers an injury crisis during the tough winter months, it can call upon any number of under-21 players as they do not have to be registered. This should benefit any young English talent struggling for first team playing time, providing a club has some English talent in its reserves.
At the end of January, each club will be required to re-submit their squad with any new signings, otherwise the player will be ineligible. The only exception to this rule is in the event of a goalkeeping crisis, if this occurs then a club can apply for special dispensation to register a new stopper.
The introduction of this rule in the Champions League forced Chelsea to sign English players Ross Turnbull and Daniel Sturridge to fill its quota for the competition, but neither factored in Chelsea’s campaign. This led many to publicly wonder whether or not the rule will benefit England.
But a Premier League season is a long and tough. It is far more likely that all 25 players will be used at some point, otherwise clubs risk burning out their stars before those crucial final weeks.
So how are last season’s top seven affected by these rule changes? They are the clubs who will have to juggle domestic and European campaigns, so will need to use all 25 players on their squad.
Only three of the seven could enter the 2010-11 season now without having to buy or sell players: Manchester United, Tottenham and Aston Villa.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s highly successful policy of bringing through a number of players from his academy will certainly pay dividends now as United has a total of 13 home-grown first-teamers in their ranks already.
Unsurprisingly both Spurs and Villa are already within the regulations. Both have a significantly higher proportion of home players in relation to foreigners, although Martin O’Neill probably needs another two or three players to reach 25.
Big spending Manchester City are a unique case out of the European qualifiers this season. It has 15 home-grown players in its squad already. However City currently has 32 players under contract have a massive, which means at least seven are going to be disappointed come the start of the season.
Expect a major clearout at Eastland between now and the start of the season or City will have a huge amount of talent wasting in the reserves for the rest of the season.
Last season’s champion, Chelsea, has a lot of work to do this summer if it is to meet Premier League regulations. At the moment, however, only five players in its first team are home grown.
Thanks to the signing of Joe Cole, Liverpool now has four recognized home-grown players in its main squad.
It can call upon the likes of Stephen Darby and Jay Spearing to boost its numbers slightly, but they are still missing at least two players.
Surprisingly Arsenal is pretty close to meeting the new requirements if Jack Wilshere and Kieron Gibbs. In that case, Arsenal will have all eight. This is because of Arsene Wenger’s policy of developing his own players through the Arsenal youth system rather than buying established veterans.
Therefore the likes of Fabregas, Denilson and Gael Clichy all qualify as home grown, which makes the Frenchman’s job a heck of a lot easier this summer. It is expected he will sign one or two more Englishmen just to be sure however as Wilshere and Gibbs are not guaranteed to stay this season.
In the short term it is hard to see the rule change making much of an impact on the squads of the top teams in the Premier League, as sides like Arsenal have a vast array of home-grown talent already available.
However, in a couple of years time when clubs have more time to adjust and reform their academies then we should really see the benefit of these rules. It is a refreshing change of attitude by the Premier League as it seems that they are actually trying to do something for the good of the game.
They have finally recognized that the way the game is now is unsustainable and seem to be taking steps toward ensuring its future. The Home Grown Players Rule is just the first step toward doing this, but it is a positive one and one that will help save the game we love.
Cameron Dickinson writes for The National Game. His Column appears with written consent.