Gordon Taylor interview

Taylor backing foreign imports

August 18, 2010
By Harry Harris, Football Correspondent
(Archive)

Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor predicts that the next generation of England players will contain a number of foreign nationals who have taken up UK citizenship. And the head of the players' union has also backed the new 25-man squad rule to revolutionise the England team.

Mikel Arteta
GettyImagesEverton's Spanish mifielder Mikel Arteta qualifies for England.

Taylor, the longest-serving administrator in English football, believes the introduction of a minimum of eight players that have been with the club for three years within a team's 25-man squad will encourage the development of young English talent, but equally thinks it will mean more importation of foreign kids - who can then go on to play for England.

The World Cup in 2018, which might even be hosted in England, could see a national team with players born in Brazil, Italy, Germany, France and Spain, as well as from Africa and Australia in the fashion that the England cricket and rugby teams incorporate players from other countries.

"There has been a lot of debate about it, and there has been opposition expressed by Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp," said Taylor. "But the vast majority of people in the game who care about the future of the England team are behind it.

"The plan is to give youngsters who come into the game a proper chance to succeed. It is essential to bring in this new 25-man squad rule because it will encourage clubs to develop young talent. Our Meltdown Report highlighted the contracting pool of players available to the England team, and our research shows that of 600 lads who go full time in the Premier League and Football League, 500 are out of the game by the time they reach 21.''

Taylor bemoaned the lack of young talent coming through to replace a current generation of England stars who let down a nation in South Africa. "There is no longer the progression of youngsters that we had via the English Schools FA, which used to be the core for future England teams," he said. "If our academies and Centres of Excellence were a University, it would be shut down with such a massive failure rate."

The high stakes and demands of the Premier League make it difficult for players to be blooded at the top level, says Taylor.

"We have been left with a black hole of development of players from 19 to 21 with clubs reluctant to put youngsters into their teams at the highest level, with managers suffering such a short tenure because the industry is so results driven that they tend to go for ready-made internationals," he said.

"Manchester City have the best academies for youngsters, but they are now buying the best players from around the world. Chelsea have an excellent youth structure and have made a big effort to develop youngsters, but still buy them ready-made.

"Without a very competitive reserve league it is imperative we make this new rule work to develop young talent. Equally, we don't want seven kids sitting on the bench. Ideally, I would like the rule to go even further and that we start with two of the "home-grown" youngsters, but that is for the future.

"For now we have to address the terrible lack of international success in English football, so I feel it is essential for all clubs to work to make this rule work, and it is good for another reason, it will help to make it more of a level playing field.''

Taylor believes that a useful approach would be to work the system to the advantage of the English game by allowing young foreign players to qualify for the English national team. "As we are in the European Union, we cannot do anything about clubs importing young foreign players, and I am not particularly against recruitment from abroad, although I am concerned about the success rate," he continued.

"However, when you look at [Cesc] Fabregas, you can see why clubs go down this route. In the future I can see that some of these foreign boys will chose UK residency and a UK passport and could elect to play for England, as it happens now more widely in other countries, such as Germany. I would not discourage this.

"Germany, in fact, have adopted quite a few young players from outside of their country, from Turkey and Poland, and look how well they have done, and how they have been welcomed into their international teams. I can see it happening here, and I feel that it should, as it happens in other sports. It would also be a fair reflection of our society. The overriding question is whether it would enhance the development of the England team, and yes, I believe it would."

Taylor knows some of the world's most successful nations have adopted this trend. For example, Mauro Cameronesi was a World Cup winner with Italy yet hails from Argentina, while Deco and Pepe are from Brazil but play for Portugal. Brazilian-born Marcos Senna was a mainstay of Spain's Euro 2008 victory.

Craig Bellamy
GettyImagesCraig Bellamy: Forced out on loan to Cardiff.

Taylor believes the 25-man rule will eventually prove to be one of the best innovations in English football, and that is why his union is supporting it. The effect of the 25-man squad rule, with clubs committed to naming their chosen 25 by September 1, has already had a major effect, notably on Manchester City who have been moved to rid their ranks of top-name internationals.

Craig Bellamy and Stephen Ireland have exited Eastlands and Taylor stressed: "There is no doubt there is already an impact, and that youngsters will have to be given their chance. But I won't be satisfied until there are at least two Under-21 players starting every game, but we would need a new initiative for this to happen.

"There is a down side that there might result in some unemployment, but there is an average eight-year career for players, and players at the top level will have an opportunity to move on, and if they cannot make a squad of 25 should be thinking of moving on. Less wealthy clubs will find they have an opportunity of picking up some big name players, like Cardiff have done with Craig Bellamy."

It seems Taylor is out to prove that those who run the game are not just paying lip service to the new plans and are instead seeking solutions that can give a nation an England team it can finally be proud of.