We must cut number of foreign stars, says FA chief

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The Independent Online

The Football Association's new independent chairman, Lord Triesman, says England will have little chance of winning major tournaments if the percentage of foreign players in the Premier League continues to increase. He has begun discussions with Uefa's sympathetic president, Michel Platini, and will try to persuade clubs to stop recruiting young teenagers from abroad and concentrate on native talent.

"Unless we can grow more of our own players and take the very best of them through until the senior teams, we'll always be struggling," he said. "The proportion eligible to play for England in the Premier League is 37 or 38 per cent. There's nothing to say the proportion couldn't get smaller. And would we then be in the position to win the tournaments we want to see England winning? It's a real, real concern."

As a former Foreign Office minister, Triesman knows free movement of labour within the European Community effectively prevents the imposition of any quota system. What he hopes to achieve as a minimum is to standardise regulations among the major European football nations so that clubs cannot sign young players before they can sign professional contracts.

Triesman was speaking at the launch of the FA's four-point plan to improve football at grass roots. The issue of respect towards referees has become even more topical since the launch, when he had singled out Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson as an example of a high-profile manager who could set a better example. Ferguson has been asked by the FA for his comments after complaining about Martin Atkinson's handling of United's FA Cup defeat by Portsmouth

Triesman, who was punched by a player once when refereeing, said: "Nobody in a position as powerful and influential as any of the major managers should take that attitude to referees. I hugely admire Alex Ferguson, but I hope in his quieter moments he will also think what's felt around the country [on a] Sunday morning when everybody feels that if very prominent people can do it, they can do it as well."

The Tottenham goalkeeper Paul Robinson was recalled to the England squad for the friendly against France on Wednesday following an injury to Scott Carson yesterday. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Ashley Young, David Wheater, Jermain Defoe and Jermaine Jenas were omitted from the squad that Fabio Capello had announced on Thursday, while Matthew Upson is ruled out due to injury.

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