Coppell calls for limits on foreign players

November 14, 2007

Reading manager Steve Coppell insists it is time the Premier League started to 'protect its own identity' by limiting the amount of foreign players in each squad.

Coppell has suggested introducing a system where each top flight side must include at least one Englishman in their matchday squad.

The 52-year-old's disillusionment with the modern game in this country may well have been stoked by his side's meeting with Arsenal's multi-national side on Monday.

Arsene Wenger's squad featured players from nine different nationalities, with just one Englishman, Theo Walcott - who came off the substitutes' bench with seven minutes remaining of the Gunners' 3-1 win.

Coppell admits his passion for this issue stems from a desire to see the England national team succeed and insists it is nothing to do with racism.

'I still maintain that we play in the 'English' Premier League, it's nothing to do with any kind of racism,' he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

'We are in the English Premier League yet all the majority of the teams at the top end of the Premier League have very few English players.

'We have to protect our own development. I think it's a necessity that over the course of the next couple of years, even if it starts with one English player per 16, we protect our identity by having a limited number of English players within our own environment.

'There are certain clubs that would go against that but as someone who wants the English national team to do well it's something that's got to happen.'

Coppell is well aware of the difficulties facing any potential chances to the way English football is run.

He said: 'If you were starting English football again tomorrow, there is no way you would envisage the set-up we have at the moment where the Football Association has the grass-roots, the national team and the Premier League have the cash cow.'

Coppell believes the only way the issue can be resolved is if the FA and the Premier League come together to form a joint directive.

'Brian Barwick (FA chief executive), who I've known for many years, is in charge of the FA and he can't impose his will on the Premier League,' he added.

'There has to be a joint directive to go forward where there is a balance. We have the best league in the world - I'm convinced of that.

'And can we now use that to our advantage and produce the best national team in the world? It's a very difficult thing with so many interests at stake.'