Pardew rejects Wenger's charge of racism

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The Independent Online

Alan Pardew said he would continue speaking his mind even though recent criticism of Arsenal's reliance on foreign players provoked accusations of "racism" from his Gunners counterpart Arsène Wenger.

The West Ham manager claimed that "we are losing the soul of English football" after Arsenal booked their place in the Champions' League quarter-finals without having a single Briton in their starting line-up. Wenger said that the outburst encouraged racism, and yesterday Pardew defended himself by pointing to his record in signing foreign players.

"In light of the media coverage surrounding my recent comments, I would like to make one or two things clear," he said. "When I said it was disappointing that there were no British players in the Arsenal team that went through in the Champions' League, I was not being racist or xenophobic, as Wenger has suggested.

"A manager who is married to a Swede and has signed players from Ireland, Wales, Argentina, Israel and France, while giving trials to players from Japan and Poland, cannot be called racist. Our multicultural approach to our squad is something I'm proud of. But I care passionately about our game and will always give my views honestly and from the heart."

Pardew feels that all Premiership clubs should have a backbone of home-grown players in order to safeguard the future of the British game. "My view is that if we are to have strong British national sides - and success at that level boosts our domestic leagues - then we need to have young British players coming through," he said. "I made it clear last week that I'm a great admirer of Wenger and what he has achieved, and in no way was I belittling their great result.

"Indeed I hope they go on to win the Champions' League. But I maintain we need to protect our young talent for the greater good. It is a view I know is held by the Professional Footballers Association, other managers and indeed Fifa, who are considering introducing a quota system.

"Jose Mourinho at Chelsea has said he will build success at Stamford Bridge with a backbone of English players. If ever I were to manage in Portugal, I would insist the team had a fair share of home-born talent from that country."

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