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Locals need the chance to shine

West Bromwich Albion’s Congolese defender Youssuf Mulumbu (centre) vies with Southampton’s English midfielder Adam Lallana (left) and French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin during the match between West Bromwich Albion and Southampton at The Hawthorns last Monday. Photo: AFP

West Bromwich Albion’s Congolese defender Youssuf Mulumbu (centre) vies with Southampton’s English midfielder Adam Lallana (left) and French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin during the match between West Bromwich Albion and Southampton at The Hawthorns last Monday. Photo: AFP

We all have our opinions about the number of foreign players plying their trade in the Premier League.

So far this season not one of the 19 goals scored at The Hawthorns has been by an English player
- James Calvert

There are those who believe it is a good thing as it gives fans the chance to watch some of the most talented players on the planet playing for their teams on a weekly basis. And to a certain extent they are right.

Others however, and I include myself in this group, feel the English game as a whole is suffering as a result of this reliance on foreign imports. With every passing season, English players get pushed further down the pecking order to accommodate those from overseas. And that is not good for the game’s long-term future.

You may be wondering what put this subject back on my agenda. Well, it was a simple but startling statistic I heard during last Monday’s game between West Bromwich Albion and Southampton: so far this season not one of the 19 goals scored at The Hawthorns has been by an English player.

Of course, you could write this off as little more than a quirky statistic or mere coincidence.

But I think it is much more than that. I think it is clear evidence that the effects of the imbalance between local and foreign players in the Premier League are starting to filter through.

If English players are not getting the chance to play top-level football because they can’t get in the teams, then of course there will be fewer and fewer English goalscorers. At all grounds, not just The Hawthorns.

This is not me being racist or xenophobic. Far from it. I think some of the foreign talent that plays in the Premier League is magnificent and should be welcomed with open arms.

But there has to be a limit. Space has to be left for English players to make it through to the first team; otherwise the pool of talented English players will get shallower and the national team will continue its downward spiral.

I’m not suggesting the cream won’t continue to rise to the top. It will, as we are currently seeing with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling and Jack Rodwell.

But for every one of those who have made it, there are probably a dozen others who could have been just as good if they hadn’t found their paths to the top blocked by foreign imports.

I know EU law – ridiculously, in my opinion – doesn’t allow for a limit on foreign players in teams, but there must be some other way of solving this problem.

A solution that will allow English football – and other European leagues for that matter – to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Sadly I’ve no idea what that solution might be. If any of you do, I’d love to hear from you.

Just what the doctor ordered

Let’s be honest, if Scottish football ever needed a pick-me-up, it was now.

It’s been an unsavoury few months for the game north of the border, starting with the Rangers’ financial meltdown and ending with Craig Levein being sacked as manager of the national team after just 12 competitive games in charge.

Add to that the fact the Hearts are appealing for supporter help to stop them going out of business in two weeks’ time, and you can see why the game was down in the dumps.

Which is why Celtic’s stunning victory over Barcelona in the Champions League could not have come at a better time.

It doesn’t cure Scottish football’s ailments. Of course not. But it does show that despite the issues plaguing the Scottish game, its soul is alive and kicking.

It wasn’t the prettiest of victories by Celtic and involved a heck of a lot of defending and some world-class goalkeeping.

But it was a David-and-Goliath-style triumph, and sometimes those can be all the sweeter.

Everybody ends up losing

On the one hand I admire the French Football Association for taking a tough stance with players who disobey the rules. It’s nice to see an association that has the guts to put its foot down.

However, on the other hand I can’t help but feel that with the type of punishment they like to dish out, they might actually be shooting themselves in that very same foot.

International midfielder Yann M’Vila and four other players went out clubbing while on duty with the Under-21 national team. Their party took place between the two legs of a European Championship qualifying tie against Norway which France went on to lose 5-4 on aggregate.

Unacceptable behaviour, I grant you.

However, I think that banning M’Vila from playing for all national teams until June 2014 – and the other four players until December 2013 – is a bit like cutting your nose off to spite your face.

Yes, the players involved will suffer, but so will the French national team. M’Vila, for example, already has 22 full caps for his country, and despite only being 22, so he is obviously a handy little player.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to ban him and the others for a couple of matches and slap them with a huge fine? Or maybe tell them they could only play for the national team if they donate their appearance money to charity for a year?

The players would have still felt properly punished but at least the national team, whose best interests the association is supposed to be looking after, wouldn’t have suffered as a result.

Maybe I am being naïve but I just don’t see the logic in dishing out hefty punishments if they are detrimental to the very organisation that is issuing them.

No time for getting shirty

Even now, a week later, I am still trying to understand what was going through Andre Santos’s mind when he swapped shirts with Robin van Persie during Arsenal’s match with Manchester United.

I’m not saying he shouldn’t have done it. The two guys are friends and shirt swapping is something that happens a lot after football matches.

But the key word there is ‘after’. Not at half-time. In full view of the fans and the television cameras. And when the player you happen to be swapping with is the one that left your club for your rivals in the summer.

Santos has since apologised and promised it won’t happen again, which is fair enough.

But considering the way Santos is performing these days, he should consider himself to be lucky to even have a football shirt to swap, because there is little evidence that he is actually a player…

[email protected]
Twitter: @maltablade

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