For he is an Englishman – unless he plays for Arsenal and Chelsea, writes Pete Sixsmith, borrowing from Gilbert and Sullivan (though didn’t Sullivan have a spoonful or two of Italian blood?). Ah, but Pete’s not on about light opera. He’s just been studying the Premier League squad lists, where “homegrown” assumes an elastic definition and Englishmen form an ethnic minority …
Lots of interesting things in the papers today:
* Derbyshire’s improbable win at Gloucestershire after being skittled out for 44 in the first innings
* Real Madrid having the audacity to suggest that Harry Redknapp was being economical with the truth over the Van der Vart transfer by denying that Bayern Munich had ever made a bid for him
* William Hague making it clear that there was nothing untoward in his relationship with his special adviser, even though they did share a hotel room during the election campaign.
I should come out now and make it clear that I am not in, and never have had, an improper relationship with Mr Peter Horan, despite sharing a room with him on numerous pre-season tours and other typically male events.
However, we did have to move heaven and earth at the Days Inn in Belfast to get two single beds rather than a double – or was it the other way round, I forget.
The main piece that caught my attention was the composition of the Premier League squads. The Guardian listed all the names and even produced a handsome circle graph to show you, er, graphically who is the most and least domestically oriented club.
We come out sixth with 58 per cent of our players homegrown. This means that they have spent three seasons or 36 months at any English or Welsh affiliated club before their 21st birthday.
Our homegrown lot includes Northern Irishmen George McCartney and Trevor Carson and the Irish Republic’s Andy Reid, who qualify as homegrown because they came over as 16 year olds. David Meyler will fall into this category when he turns 21.
The most surprising name on the list is that of Robbie Weir. He is a Northern Ireland Under 21 and B International, who seems to have been around for ages, without ever looking as if he would get into the first team. He had a poor game for the Reserves on Tuesday night, but he must be well pleased with his listing.
According to the Grauniad (and it got our list wrong!) the Mags have the highest proportion of homegrown players with 70 per cent. Fabio Capello must be drooling in anticipation of including the likes of James Perch, Danny Guthrie and Shola Ameobi in his next Euro squad (although Nile Ranger looked the business the other night).
Predictably, Professor Wenger and his Arsenal Ecole des Sciences come out badly, with a mere 35 per cent of his squad homegrown and none of them English. The likes of Gibbs, Wilshere and Walcott don’t need to be named, which does distort it a little bit.
By far the worst are Chelsea, with 21 per cent of their squad homegrown. Take Cole, Terry and Lampard out and the only one who fulfils that requirement is the third choice keeper, Ross Turnbull. Chelsea doing it for England? Ha!
I am in favour of this system. Hopefully it will make clubs take more time over their younger players. All three North East clubs have invested heavily in their academies. Middlesbrough have produced a number of very good players, the Mags have turned out some decent ones and we are beginning to produce solid, steady midfielders and small forwards. It has to be the way forward.
Now that the window has shut, there is time for some studied reflection on what we have got. I can’t imagine that there will be a need to spend again in January unless we are offered Iniesta as a part exchange for David Healy.
Most of the players who were contributing little have gone, either permanently or on loan. Now we can begin to build a side and tweak instead of remodelling every four months. This is where the manager and his coaching staff show us if they really are any good, starting at Wigan a week on Saturday. There are worse places to go.
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