Letter: Advice from the terraces

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The Independent Online
IN THE early Nineties I suggested to Jimmy Armfield, then heading the latest inquiry into England's footballing failure, that the only way to improve the home game was to legislate to make sure each English club team went out with eight or nine players qualified for the England side ("Fifa call for foreign policy summit", Sport, 18 July). Eighteen-year- olds would have to declare their international intentions with clarity (no late opting for an Ireland or Wales place on the back of a great-grandparent).

Sadly, the reason for the absence of English players - Welsh, Scottish and Irish, too - from the European mainland leagues is obvious. Until our defenders show the pace and facility with the ball that Latin backlines reveal, our midfielders the stamina and vision of Scandinavians, our attackers the gallery of skills that Serie A audiences take for granted, then the transfer market will point firmly in one direction.

The only way forward is to create young players whom Barcelona and Inter cannot afford to be without. Then Liverpool or Tottenham can mourn the loss of a young star but contemplate how they are going to spend pounds 30m worth of Italian lire or Spanish pesetas. We need to spend 10 or 15 years moulding footballers with the talent to take on the world. The best foreign coaches should train our coaches. Only then will we win a World Cup again - with a team drawn from players who compete in the Premier League, yes, but also in Portugal, in Belgium, even the USA, Japan or Australia.

SIMON WARNER

Rishworth, West Yorkshire

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