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Viewpoint - 13/11/07

fans viewsHenry Kibirige looks at the number of foreigners in the Premiership and how important it is to none the less still have some local players in your team.

This week Fergie celebrated his 21st year as a United manager. Arguably the best manager United have ever had, the Scotsman has built three world beating squads, and is currently working on his fourth.

His squads down the years included the talents of Beckham, the presence of Cantona and the leadership of Roy Keane. They all had great strength in depth and were worth the money to watch.

As well as all this, Fergie welcomed players from all over the globe. The likes of Dwight Yorke and Kanchelskis spring to mind. But even at these rapidly changing times, Fergie has always had a fair percentage of English players in the squad.

As Arsenal continue to kidnap young six year old boys from Papa Nu Guinea, the issue of foreign players in football is getting more hotly debated. Half of the BBC punditry team seem to agree that there is a lack of English players in the Premiership, so Sepp Blatter came up with the idea of a ‘home base’ player rule. This would mean that clubs in all top flight leagues would have to have a certain number of players from that actual country. This idea, has been passionately backed by Fergie

To be honest, I am a bit in-between on this. I just can’t make up my mind on whether it would really be that good. Let’s first of all look at the advantages of having a lot of home grown players in a squad.
The fans who agree with Blatter’s idea would probably say that fans would relate better to a home grown or local player than a foreign one, and they have a point. United fans love the fact that Gary Neville, Wes Brown and Paul Scholes are Mancs. It just feels better to hear a Manc accent during a post-match interview than a stuttered foreign one. It’s almost like a breath of fresh air.

A local lad would also find it easier to get motivated for big derby games. Before Patrice Evra came to United, he probably had some sort of idea about the rivalry between City and United. But he never really understood it until he played his debut at Eastlands. Evra was probably already motivated as it was his debut and he wanted to impress, but if you compared him to Neville, you would realise that Evra didn’t have the little bit more passion you get for a derby game. He didn’t really understand how much the game meant to the fans and the team.
Having someone local means that you are almost guaranteed a heart on sleeve performance in the derbies.
If a manager buys a home grown player, he won’t have to go through the malarkey of having to wait a season for the player to settle in. Ronaldo came to Old Trafford and although he had an impressive debut against Bolton, the rest of the season meant a series of young and inexperienced performances. Ronaldo had to take time to settle in and get used to his new surroundings away from the Madeira sunshine. A few seasons later though, Ronaldo’s one of the best players in the world.

Even though a home grown player might be moving to a new team with new tactics, the settling in stage is still expected to be a lot shorter than the one of a foreigner.

One reason why a home grown player settles in faster is that they won’t have language problems (unless you’re stupidly moving to Merseyside were their only language is ‘rob shoelaces’ and ‘beat up that granny’). It will be so much easier for a manager to have a half time team-talk without having to have three translators and a Chinese dictionary to help foreigners understand what he’s saying.

However, this point can be argued as not all managers are home based themselves. So it will spark up the issue of whether there are enough home based managers. That of course, is a different matter.
An English club, is an English club. So being English, it has to show that it’s English (I really hope you understand that as I can’t be bothered re-thinking). This again, is argued that it must be on the pitch. Clubs have to keep their tradition, this can be done by their style of play, their kits, their name etc… Fans also argue that it must be done by the nationality of their players. Fair enough. English club, English players.

So you look at our friends Arsenal and conclude that they might as well wear green kits and be called Nigeria. The number of foreign black players in that team is staggering, especially as it’s an English club. The cockneys say,

“ Brapppp, pop brat ala Arsenal yyyeah. Brappp bullet brap yo y’all yo yo brapppp. We have Walcott yyyyyeah, and Hoyte. Brapppp, we defo English.”

I thank Ian Wright for that quote, but if you’re normal person, you will find it hard to understand that fine piece of punditry. It basically means that Arsenal fans say that they DO have English players in their squad, and these are Theo Walcott and Justin Hoyte. But how many more?

The issue of foreigners will always bring up the club vs. country row. Steve McLaren would find it a lot easier to go to a game and expect to see the majority of players to be contenders for the In-ger-land set up.
All these points, swing me slightly to the support of the home grown player rule. But these following points neutralise me again.

Does it actually matter whether a player is foreign or not? Does it make any sort of difference.
A question being asked is whether there are that many good English players to go around. This further leads to ask whether they really are that good. Excluding the English players already playing for United, Steven Gerrard is the only player that would be good enough to play for United.

If some of these English players really are that good, why is it 41 years still counting? I think a conclusion would be that the media are over estimating a fairly average England team.
So this means having to agree with some Arsenal fans. I think Wenger only goes to the foreign market simply because the English players aren’t good enough, and that there aren’t enough good ones to share around.
In a lot of my articles, I always refer back to the old days. This is actually surprising for someone of my age, but it’s a good source of example to highlight just how fast the game is changing. Long gone are the days where players hardly moved clubs, and that they lived a stone’s throw away from the ground. Instead, it’s being replaced with fans having to research Wikipedia to find out how to pronounce a new signing’s name.

This is how football is now, and we just have to get used to it.
Henry Kibirige

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