Chelsea’s Michael Mancienne has the footballing world at his feet. In November 2008, as one of the country’s finest prospects, he was called up by Fabio Capello for the England squad ahead of a friendly against Germany. He followed this up last season by playing 30 games in the Premiership on loan to Wolves. Is he, however, set to become a victim of the Premier League’s latest edict – the quota system.
The 2010/11 season will require teams to name 25 man squads that include a minimum of 8 homegrown players. That is to say, 8 players that have been registered with an FA affiliated club for three years prior to their 21st birthday. Premier League chief executive Peter Scudamore explains the reasoning thus:
”It will make buying home-grown talent more attractive. We’re not going down the route of a nationality test but what this will mean is that you just can’t buy a team from abroad. We think it will give clubs an extra incentive to invest in youth. We think that one of the benefits will be that it will help the England football team.”
There is, therefore, some reasoning behind the new ruling and it is fair to say the move was welcomed by many parties as a step in the right direction to safeguard football in this country. And then we come to Mancienne. Wolves are keen to take the player either on loan for another season or in a £4m permanent transfer. They can offer him regular Premiership football albeit in what may well be a struggling side. Meanwhile, the player himself is torn – understandably keen to stay at Chelsea in the hope that he has some chance of breaking through into the first-team, but fearing a season on the sidelines at a time when he needs to be playing football and progressing with his career. The fascination of course, are the motives of Chelsea.
Scudamore argues that ”it is not in the clubs’ interests to stockpile players”. Can he really be so sure of this though? Chelsea are a club struggling more than most to fill their 25 man squad. As only 17 non home-grown players over the age of 21 are permitted, those home-grown players on the books take on an added significance that has only been exarcebated by Joe Cole leaving the club. The temptation to retain players like Ross Turnbull, Sam Hutchinson, Daniel Sturridge, Scott Sinclair and Michael Mancienne will be huge even though Carlo Ancelotti would surely regard none of them as first XI footballers. Generous contracts may be secured, the prospect of first team opportunities will be floated. However, all the time the clock is ticking for young talents who, in the case of Sturridge and Mancienne in particular, could perhaps be enjoying regular top-flight action elsewhere. It begs the question – how is this benefiting English football?