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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 12:16 GMT
Homegrown formula for success
By Ian Hughes

John Terry
Terry has been superb for Chelsea
Chelsea's and Liverpool's homegrown players have been inspirational in their sides' march to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

In contrast, Manchester United's Republic of Ireland international Roy Keane and Paul Scholes have seemed a little past their prime.

And Arsenal's Ashley Cole, although outstanding, has largely been the sole Briton in a French-driven team.

United and the Gunners are out.

So is a British 'spine' essential to a Premiership team's success in Europe?


Chelsea's superb form this season has been built on a very solid base - chiefly John Terry.

He has been a tremendous organiser, inspirational leader and, also, a scorer of crucial goals - it was his header which clinched victory over Barcelona.

There is surely no team in the competition not covetous of Chelsea's skipper - least of all Arsenal, whose own English talisman, Sol Campbell, has been sorely missed through injury.

United have another of the competition's outstanding English centre-backs in Rio Ferdinand.

Ferdinand may have been shy of his very best this season but United's exit is more a result of profligate finishing - and an unfit Ruud van Nistelrooy - than poor defending.

Liverpool have Jamie Carragher, whom Anfield boss Rafa Benitez has hailed as "the best central defender in England at the moment".

Had Real Madrid's British centre-back Jonathan Woodgate been fit, would there still be no Spanish teams in the last eight of the competition for the first time in 13 years?

However, it has to be noted that Chelsea also owe a debt of gratitude to their outstanding Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Both United and Arsenal have struggled with their keepers and Roy Carroll's error at Old Trafford, which gifted AC Milan a 1-0 win, proved fatal.

According to Arsenal legend Nigel Winterburn, successful teams "defend as a unit".

He told BBC Sport: "You must have great confidence and trust in your keeper, and communication between him and the back four is very, very important."

Chelsea have it - and how Arsenal and United would love to have Cech and Terry.


In front of every good defence there is a great midfield and both Chelsea and Liverpool can boast the best of British.

Chelsea's Frank Lampard has been magnificent - committed in the tackle, with visionary distribution and a potent goal threat.

Steven Gerrard is the heart and soul of Liverpool, providing a driving force which many argue has almost single-handedly carried the team.

The pair are the most influential midfield generals from the Premiership's four Champions League teams.

United's Keane, though enjoying a fine season, is not the player he once was, while Patrick Vieira has failed to fire the Gunners.

Gerrard and Lampard are tenacious, determined and able to marry top-class technique with the ability - and willingness - to roll up their sleeves.

And with Joe Cole now beginning to fulfil his undoubted potential, Chelsea are improving the reputation of Brits abroad.


A look at the remaining teams shows that using home nation players in important positions pays dividends.

Would Italians AC Milan and Juventus fare as well without nationals Fabio Cannavro, Andrea Pirlo, Paolo Maldini or Alessandro Nesta, to name a few?

Germany's Bayern have their country's international goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and arguably their best midfielders in Michael Ballack and Sebastian Deisler.

Of the teams that have been knocked out of the competition, Real Madrid's reliance on non-nationals is most obvious.

England's David Beckham, Denmark's Thomas Gravesen, France's Zinedine Zidane and Portugal's Luis Figo made up their midfield against Juventus.

It seems there may be an advantage to employing home players as the backbone of your team.

And if so, we will all welcome Uefa's proposals on home-grown players if it improves the quality of the game.

The question now is whether the English spines are good enough to conquer Europe.

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