Neville backs limit on number of foreign players

Neville in his England coaching role Photo: PA Images

A quota system should be introduced to the Premier League to help the home nations, according to England coach Gary Neville, who fears the top flight has passed its "tipping point" when it comes to foreign players.

The former Manchester United full-back, who combines his role as a television pundit with assisting England boss Roy Hodgson, is concerned about the direction the British and Irish national sides are heading in.

And citing the start of his own career as an example when clubs were limited to the amount of overseas players they could field, Neville has suggested an inversion of that system whereby managers would have to pick players from the home nations.

Speaking to the Guardian, Neville said: "Last week I looked at a list of players signed into the Premier League. I like to think I'm well-read on football but, honestly, I'd never heard of 50-60 per cent of them.

"All right, we might unearth lots of talent from abroad. And some fantastic foreign players and managers have enhanced British football no end. But I used the phrase 'tipping point' last season and I feel we're going too far right now.

"We need to protect our English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and Irish national teams by giving more boys from those countries more opportunities.

"England not winning trophies, or even reaching the semi-finals of major competitions any longer, is a problem for us.

"It's also a problem for the Premier League, which seems behind the German and Spanish leagues.

"The way I see it, British football clubs and managers, the Football Association and the Premier League need to come together as one. We all want a successful group of home nations which produce more domestic players.

"It's not just England. Look what's happened to Scottish football. Look at the Republic of Ireland. Roy Keane, Niall Quinn, Steve Staunton, Paul McGrath and Kevin Moran always played on English soil and in the Premier League.

"We need to come together and get back to a point where there is a quota system of some kind. I know people say you can't implement this because of European law but where there's a will there's a way."

Neville made his name at Old Trafford as part of a side heavily made up of young talent.

The 38-year-old grew up and played with the likes of David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and brother Phil, but feels that had he been trying to make a breakthrough in this era, he may have struggled.

"When I came through in the mid-1990s there was a rule where only a limited number of foreign players could be included in a team during European competition," he added.

"We benefited from that because, as young British players, we got opportunities. We need to get back something of that ilk - where each team has three or four players from the home countries at the start of every match.

"My chances of making it as a pro footballer at the age of 18 in 2013 would be a lot less than 20 years ago. A talented 18-year-old today has to hope he's at the right club with the right manager who believes in young players. But it's become so short-term.

"The average manager has no time to think about the youth team - let alone create a structure and philosophy at the club. It's a vicious circle and one that disappoints me about the modern game. I'm a traditionalist and think people should be given time."