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Two Academy Subs Would Be a Mistake

According to an article on ESPNsoccernet, the Premier League will explore the possibility of implementing a rule that would require its 20 member teams to include at least two academy graduates from that particular club in the seven available substitutes on gameday.

This was one of the options put forward this summer in addition to the 7-man bench, which is up from its previous five this season. Obviously it wasn’t introduced; the Premiership likely wanted to take things step by step and not make radical changes right away. Like FIFA and UEFA, though, the Premiership is in favor of increasing the amount of home-grown players on each team.

To get this proposal passed, it would take the approval of 2/3 of the top flight’s 20 clubs (14, for all you math majors out there).

I’m completely against this idea and most others like it. There should be no requirement for a club to field a certain number of players from whatever country said club is based in. Teams should field the best side they can, regardless of players’ nationalities. If you’re an English club, who cares how many players from Ghana or Japan or the US or France or Sweden or wherever you have. Your primary goal is to win games and be successful. If you believe you can do that without one English player, then that’s fine. Why should there be a rule forcing teams to include or play players they don’t want to use?

My good friend, Kartik Krishnaiyer, is in favor of MLS requiring its teams to have a certain number of Americans on their rosters and in gameday lineups, and in Toronto FC’s case, is in favor of them having a certain number of Canadians. That’s silly. MLS is a league that is desperate for attention in this country’s crowded sporting landscape. If the best a team can get is Americans, fine, but if a team can get better players from outside the US that can make an impact, they should make their best efforts to get them.

I don’t mean to be anti-nationalist or nationalist here at all; I’m saying go after the best players you can get, no matter where they’re from. If you feel that signing Americans makes better business sense because your fans can identify with them more and may buy more jerseys or merchandise, then that’s fine too. Sign those Americans. But there shouldn’t be a rule requiring teams to do so.

Let’s face it — the Premiership is a global league now. The only thing traditionally English about it anymore are the cities and stadiums where teams play, and the core group of fans for each club. That’s it. The world’s top talent isn’t coming from England anymore; the vast majority of the Premiership’s best players are foreign, with Steven Gerrard and a few others the primary notable exceptions. Forcing clubs to play a certain number of English players would just water down the league, because the fact of the matter is English players, by and large, aren’t good enough at this point in time. We’re seeing it with probably the top 10 or 12 teams in the league: starting lineups have more foreign-based players than English and British players, and it’s not even close. Why? Because there’s more talent to choose from outside of that small island’s borders.

It’s not even necessarily about that either, though. I don’t care where players come from. If they’re good enough to play for me, they’re going to play. Not playing them because of where they’re from or playing others because of where they’re from is wrong. I’d have no problem playing a midfielder from Burkina Faso over a midfielder from England if I was a Premiership manager if the former was a better player or fit what I was trying to do more. That’s what it should come down to, not filling out rosters and playing players to satisfy a stupid rule.

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  1. lsmetana

    September 19, 2008 at 9:26 am

    This problem has been debated over and over and will likely continue to get debated. I much prefer the idea that clubs need to build up through their academy systems then continue to just go out and buy players all the time. I'm not against going out and bringing in a truly talented foreign player, what really seems silly is going out and spending money on mediocre foreign players when the club in question could have got the same performance from their academy players.

  2. Auslander25

    September 18, 2008 at 11:15 am

    World Class (to me) means that you could walk into the starting 11 for any team in the world (national or club). Based on that criteria the only English players that come close, IMO, are Gerrard, Rooney and Ferdinand. In the Premiership, I think you can only call Ronaldo, Torres and maybe Cech World Class.

  3. ihuy01

    September 18, 2008 at 1:35 am

    If define Steven Gerrard as world class then you have to say Cesc has a good argument. For me world class is way too broadly applied. None the less by you reckoning i would say Cesc is up there. He was the top assister in England and if im not wrong he had the most assists at the euros? and also chipped in with a few goals early on in the season and had 13 in all comps.. I would take Fabregas over Gerrard that is my personal opinion, i just think his a better passer of the football. I think Arsenal are greatly dependent on him, in a similar way to Gerrard. Gerrard in his own right is an excellent footballer and he does have case for being the best in his position. Time and time again he wins games. Like it or not the game is defined by success and he has champions league victory to his name. I have reservations on the dynamism of his passing game (i think his need to pass hollywood style and drive up with the ball is not exactly conducive to possession style of international football) and his tactical discipline (his been a problem for england managers and rafa himself).

  4. artist formerly alex hleb

    September 18, 2008 at 2:14 am

    oh michael, oh michael. fabregas is a world class player if you consider his career achievements:

    Professional Footballers’ Association
    Premier League Player of the Month: January 2007, September 2007
    PFA Young Player of the Year: 2007–08
    PFA Team of the Year: 2007–08
    Euro 2008 Team of the tournament
    UEFA Team of the Year: 2006
    UEFA Team of the Tournament: 2008


    FA Cup: 2004–05
    FA Community Shield: 2004–05


    European Championship: 2008

    (via wikipidia)

    As far as watching him, when he is in the line up Arsenal are a much better team, and if you consider Arsenal a world class, team, barring your bais against them, then I think Fabregas is a world class player if he makes a world class team even better. He scored that goal against Milan, in the champions league last year for the 10 games that he played he had 6 goals and 3 assists, and he scored that penalty and another goal for spain in the euros. By comparison Steven Gerrard scored only 6 goals in 13 games in the champions league last year and his teams seem to play better without him lately since they beat manure and england beat croatia.
    And lets not stop at fabregas being world class, you are discrediting samir nasri who has the potential, robin van persie who with 3 goals already and with his performance for holland in the euros is making a case for himself, and adebayor who already has 3 goals as well scoring 30 goals in the premier league last season.
    right now, arsenal has the best striking tandem in the premier league with adebayor and van persie. its simply a fact. 3 goals each in 4 games that they played together.
    so dont say that arsenal dont have any world class players, even though youre forgetting that arsenal were serious contendors in the champions league and finished only 4 points behind manure for the title, as well as 7 points ahead of liverpool who finished 11 points away from manure. its a matter of fact.
    besides, fabregas just turned only 21. you compare him to a 21 year old gerrard. gerrard wouldnt be able to be on the same pitch then. when gerrard was 21, he had only 2 goals in 15 games in the champions league, and only scored 11 goals in 94 games for liverpool. but like i said, cesc last year being only 20, scored 6 in 10 games in the champions league, and has scored 25 goals and made 49 assists in 201 games for arsenal.

    but i take it your not a fact man, you think about things from the gut, like president bush.

  5. Michael

    September 17, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Darren, I actually do like Alex. We've had our disagreements over time, yes, but I don't dislike him for that or disrespect him for that at all.

    Fabregas is not a world-class player..yet. He has the potential to be, definitely, but I can't say he is at this point in his career. He doesn't even start for his national team, and he's yet to show that he can maintain a level of consistency over a full season with Arsenal (he is very hot and cold, a typical trait of young players).

  6. jm1

    September 17, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    I agree with Michael on this topic. I've never really understood the purpose of these plans (from a rational stand point, the political purpose is clear). If you are really interested in developing better academies (which sure, that's a fine goal), then this only attacks the symptoms. In doing so, it simply invokes nationalistic fervor (I will be anti-nationalist!), which makes it an easy target instead of the hard change that might be needed to improve the quality of the academies.

    On the tangent – is Fabregas not a world-class player? That strikes me as a surprising claim to make. I'm not sure what the definition of “world-class” is here, but a runner-up in the PFA player of the year award is a pretty good clue!

    (Also, phooey to the new comment system requiring me to use a 3 character username ^^)

  7. Darren

    September 17, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Cesc Fabregas is not World Class? Seriously? Did you not watch him play at all yet?
    Just because you don't like 'Alex Hleb' doesn't mean you can make bone-headed comments like that.

  8. Darren

    September 17, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Michael, just because you don't like 'Alex Hleb' doesn't mean you need to spout out retarded comments like 'I will say that Gerrard is a world class player, which is one more than Arsenal has on their entire team.' Seriously. Cesc Fabregas. I don't think anymore needs to be said there.

  9. Michael

    September 17, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    If you'll read what I wrote again, nowhere did I ever mention “world class”; I just talked about top talent in the Premiership and how only a few of the league's best players are English.

    Now that YOU mention it, however, yes, I will say that Gerrard is a world class player, which is one more than Arsenal has on their entire team.

  10. artist formerly Alex Hleb

    September 17, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    michael, steven gerrard – world class? really? come on i hate to admit it but atleast frank lampard maybe, and maybe a ferdinand or terry or rooney. not steven gerrard. walcott is coming through, micah richards. just dont say steven gerrard. he's a good player, but he's not world class.

  11. Michael

    September 17, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    That's a good point as well — I hadn't even thought of that. Well spotted, Auslander.

  12. Auslander25

    September 17, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    I think it's a bad idea because it would give the manager an incentive to keep their skilled academy players on the bench when they should be out on loan to lower division sides gathering experience.

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