The days of winning the title with little more than a dozen players as Liverpool did in the eighties are long gone. For many years clubs were forced to build large and deep squads in order to have any realistic chance of success but that is now about to change dramatically. As from the beginning of September, every Premier League club must nominate a squad of up to 25 players, of which no more than 17 can be over the age of 21 and not home grown. Will this rule worry Manchester United? The short answer is NO.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has conceded that he is in a dilemma over whether to include injured players Owen Hargreaves and Anderson in his initial squad under the new rule but that can only be a minor irritation when compared to a number of other clubs. The list has to be in at the end of the summer transfer window and can be updated in January. More details on the new rules are available HERE
Hargreaves is still as far away as ever from making a comeback after double knee surgery while Anderson is not expected to return from a cruciate ligament injury until the end of September. Ferguson concedes that “It does give me a problem, but I have just got to wait as long as I can. I’ll have to make a decision at some point of course and it depends on when I think those players can come back. Most of the squad is formulated in my mind, but one or two I have to make decisions on.”
Thanks to the long term vision of youth development which has been an institution at Old Trafford for decades, Sir Alex will have very little to worry about. Any player who has not turned 21 on January 1 will be able to be used without restriction in addition to the named 25 making United far better placed than most to work within the new rule.
On average, Premier League clubs used 27 last season which included 12 English players and seven under the age of 21. The new rule aims to make room for younger home grown talent to come through and prevent the biggest clubs stockpiling talent. When a club buys a new player another will most likely have to go. Big spending Manchester City for example already have 33 senior players with plans to bring in more. It will leave no room for the likes of Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz meaning a large scale player clearout is the only solution.
Chelsea and Liverpool face an entirely different dilemma. Neither currently have enough ‘home grown’ players to meet the new regulations leaving both with a handicap of only being able to name squads of 21 and 22 respectively. One leading manager warned ‘For years the top boys have been able to keep lots of players happy by giving them big money and keep changing the team. But what’s it going to do to morale behind the scenes when suddenly two or three are told they have no chance of even lacing a pair of boots up on match day?.
Although this new rule may sound confusing on the surface, it really is quite straight forward. The Daily Mail published a good explanation of what it means for anyone who may still be grappling to fully understand the consequences.
WHAT’S GOING TO CHANGE? – After 5pm on September 1, 2010, the day after the summer transfer window shuts, Premier League clubs must nominate a squad of a maximum 25 players with 8 of them being ‘Home Grown’. The ‘Home Grown’ definition means that those 8 players must have spent at least three years training with ANY English or Welsh professional club before they reached the age of 21.
In addition to the 25 nominated, clubs can also use an UNLIMITED number of players whose age is Under 21. Federico Macheda for example will be eligible to play in addition to Ferguson’s nominated list as will the Da Silva twins as they are all under the age of 21. Should Mario Balotelli sign for Manchester City as expected, he will also be exempted for the coming season.
WHO IS CONSIDERED TO BE A ‘HOME GROWN PLAYER’? – A ‘HOME GROWN’ player can be of ANY NATIONALITY who has been registered with ANY English or Welsh club for 3 years between their 16th and 21st birthdays. Any player who had been at Scottish and Irish clubs are NOT regarded as ‘HOME GROWN’.
WHAT IF A CLUB DOESN’T HAVE 8 ‘HOME GROWN’ PLAYERS? – That club must name fewer senior players on their nominated list. Chelsea and Liverpool are currently in that situation meaning that they will only be allowed to name 21 and 22 players respectively.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A SENIOR PLAYER SUSTAINS A LONG TERM INJURY? – One of the Under 21 players must be used to replace him. In the case of exceptional circumstances such as two out of the three senior goalkeepers on the list being injured, the club may be allowed to bring in a replacement
ARE CHANGES TO THE NOMINATED LIST NOT ALLOWED AT ALL? – No, not until the next transfer window is opened. If the club has fewer than 25 eligible players under contract, that club can sign free agents
WHY HAS THE NEW RULE BEEN INTRODUCED? – All club chairmen agreed to the new rule in September last year. They came to the conclusion that it will promote youth development and block the stockpiling of the world’s best players
For those who may question whether this is a good rule for English football, remember that Spain has had a similar ruling in their ‘La Liga’ for a number of years. Spain won the Euros in 2008 and the World Cup for the first time in their history just this month. Ask yourself, was that merely a coincidence?
Do you regard the new rule as being beneficial to English football?