FA chairman Greg Dyke’s announcement this week of his plans to improve the pool of English talent in the Premier League is welcome but unfortunately 20-odd years too late.
In many ways it is a case of locking the stable door once the horse has bolted.
Dyke is proposing raising the minimum number of home-grown players from eight to 12 at Premier League clubs
His plans also include ‘home-grown’ players having to train in England for three years before the age of 18 rather than 21.
UEFA president Michel Platini is in favour of the rule changes and the Frenchman could be a powerful ally with the Premier League unlikely to be keen.
During the 1990s, when I was a management committee member and also chairman of the PFA, we warned the authorities it was very clear back then the amount of sub-standard “foreigners” being allowed to ply their trade at English clubs would have a detrimental effect on the national team.
Everton FC legend Joe Royle
Back in the 90s, Joe Royle tried to sign Marc Hottiger, a Swiss full-back, for Everton but in the first instance the player was refused a work permit.
I was an Everton player at the time and on the PFA management committee, and in training, after the decision was made, Royle made it very clear to me his total displeasure over the situation.
I wasn’t on the panel which made the decision, but I was made guilty by association.
As it turned out an appeal was upheld and Hottiger was allowed to sign for Everton, but he made very little impact at the club and his place was eventually taken by Matt Jackson, a young English defender who played in Everton’s FA Cup winning side of 1995.
Greg Dyke may have good intentions, but I feel in the current climate it will be almost impossible to turn the tide.
Back in 1995, the rules for signing overseas player were more stringent, the requirements were more demanding.
Now the non-UK classification criteria is much broader. The EU has got bigger and relaxed its laws on the movement of labour.
FA chairman Greg Dyke
Equally, players from South America and Africa can now attain European classification very quickly.
No doubt English clubs will defend their right to choose players from whichever country they wish.
Many clubs have invested fortunes in scouting networks across South America and Africa.
In fairness to clubs, many have also invested heavily in their own academy structure, but so far it is widely felt these set-ups are not producing enough players which progress to first-team standard.
It is a very complicated problem to solve.
If it is to be solved, I don’t think it will be done by the FA but the clubs themselves, but first they will have to be convinced it is the right thing to do.
For things to change tougher legislation needs to be brought in – tougher than what Greg Dyke is proposing – to reduce the number of foreign players playing at our top level.
Incredible Wrexham fans will ensure Sunday is a special occasion
I’ve traveled with Wrexham FC fans a lot this season and accompanying some of them to Israel this week made the journey go a lot quicker.
Many of them are doing exactly what I’m doing – watching the Israel v Wales Euro qualifier and then planning to make a real effort to get back to see Wrexham’s big game on Sunday when they play North Ferriby United in the FA Trophy Final at Wembley.
Fair play to them, traveling abroad for the Israel game to cheer on Wales before getting behind their team less than 24 hours later.
The timing of Sunday’s final (1.30pm) could have been better, but it’s terrific that so many fans are making such a huge effort to get to London and get behind Wrexham.
Sunday promises to be a good day. We’ve sold a significant number of tickets, although not enough to half-fill the stadium.
However, our fans can still be relied upon to make a great atmosphere.
The defeat at Nuneaton in midweek made it pretty certain Wrexham will not be in this season’s Conference Premier play-offs.
WATCH: Wrexham fans at Wembley
Because of this many fans have mixed feelings about the season overall.
Beating Chester at home, our FA Cup run and an appearance at Wembley will be seen by some as a good return in Kevin Wilkin’s first full season as manager.
To finish the season with something tangible – ie the FA Trophy – will be fantastic.
We’ve won it before of course, as recently as two years ago, and we should win it again. If we do it something we can cherish for evermore.
However, other fans feel promotion back to the Football League is the No1 priority and only this would make it a great season.
Either way Sunday will be enjoyed and hopefully celebrated, after which it leaves us with eight league games to play.
Effectively, it will be a case of playing out the league season, but these matches will be very important for the manager to assess and plan for a real promotion challenge next season.