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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 06:51 GMT
Coppell eager for English quota
Reading boss Steve Coppell
Coppell's Reading are a mix of home-grown and foreign players
Reading manager Steve Coppell says quotas on English players in Premier League teams are necessary in order to improve the national side.

He believes the structure of English football is "a recipe for non-success at international level".

"We're the English Premier League, yet the majority of the teams at the top of the Premier League have few English players," Coppell told BBC 5 Live.

"We must protect our identity by having a limited number of English players."

I understand the worries, but it's not always as logical as it seems

Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager

England have qualified for the last five major tournaments - their best consecutive run ever - but that streak looks set to come to an end with qualification for the Euro 2008 finals unlikely.

Coppell blamed a lack of clear leadership and too many conflicting interests for England's current woes and called on the Premier League to take the lead in improving the situation.

"If you were starting English football again tomorrow, there is no way you would envisage the set-up we have at the moment where the Football Association has the grass-roots, the national team and the Premier League have the cash cow.

"Our domestic football now is the most entertaining in the world but our national team doesn't duplicate that.

"The only way we can do that is by having direction from the Premier League, it's the only organisation that can really push this through.

"We have the best league in the world, can we now use that to our advantage to produce the best national team in the world?"

Coppell was picking up on a theme that is gaining increasing currency with England's travails.

On Wednesday a government spokeswoman confirmed to BBC Sport that Downing Street was in "informal discussions" with the Premier League about ways of increasing the number of home-grown players appearing for England's leading clubs.

A Conservative Party spokeswoman also told BBC Sport that while the Tories understand the importance of the issue, and support its aims, politics should stay out of football.

"It is for football to make that judgment not for government ministers, as is happening at the moment, to make promises they cannot keep," she said.

Any attempt to restrict the number of foreign players is likely to run into problems with the European Union, which says its laws view quotas as "direct discrimination".

And Arsene Wenger, manager of Premier League leaders Arsenal whose side is largely composed of foreign players, says the issue is more complicated than it first appears.

"I have only been here since 1996 but between 1966 and 1996 you [England] had 30 years without foreign players and you didn't win any more competitions in that time," Wenger said.

"You have done much better since 1996 in the major tournaments, when sometimes you were unlucky.

"If you are in a better class you improve quicker and you shouldn't put the criteria just down to producing local players.

"You have to put them up to the level of Thierry Henry and take [the number of quality players coming in from abroad] as a chance to produce better English players.

"I understand the worries, but it's not always as logical as it seems.

"Look at Steve Sidwell, for example. He didn't get in our team so he goes to Reading and gets the chances to play, and now he's back at Chelsea.

"It would be detrimental to the small clubs if the bigger clubs all signed up all the best English players. The gap would become even bigger as a result."

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