17 August 2010

On Brad Jones and the Homegrown Rule

Yesterday's signing of Middlesbrough keeper Brad Jones for £2.3m, who counts as a homegrown player despite his Australian nationality, appears to spell the end of Diego Cavalieri's tenure at Anfield. All summer long we've seen English players, many mediocre at best, linked with Liverpool ostensibly because of the new homegrown rule.

There seems to be some confusion over what this entails for the 25-man squad and who counts as homegrown. I guess we should start by quoting straight from this season's Premier League Handbook.

Page 89:
“Home Grown Player” means a Player who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any Club (or club) affiliated to the Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three Seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the Season during which he turns 21) and for the purposes of this definition of “Home Grown Player” a Season will be deemed to commence on the date on which the first Transfer Window closes and expire on the date of the final League Match of the Season

Page 93:
"Squad List” means the list of up to a maximum of 25 Players eligible to participate in League Matches during a Season of whom a maximum of 17 may not be Home Grown Players

Page 94:
“Under 21 Player” means a Player under the age of 21 as at the 1st January in the year in which the Season concerned commences (ie for Season 2010/11 born on or after 1st January 1989)

Page 170:
Requirement for Registration
1. A Player shall not play for a Club in a League Match unless that Club holds his registration with effect from at least one hour before kick off and for League Matches to be played between the close of the First Transfer Window and the end of the Season either:
1.1 his name is included on the Squad List; or
1.2 he is an Under 21 Player.

I reckon that's enough legalese. Long story short, clubs can have a squad of up to 25 players, no more than 17 of whom can be senior non-homegrown players. However, clubs can register and use an infinite amount of under-21 players. Naming eight senior homegrown players or a full 25-man senior squads aren't requirements.

So, where does that leave Liverpool? Going off of LFC.tv's current squad list:

Homegrown players (7):
Jamie Carragher
Joe Cole
Stephen Darby
Steven Gerrard
Glen Johnson
Brad Jones
Jay Spearing

Non-homegrown players (18):
Daniel Agger
Alberto Aquilani
Fabio Aurelio
Ryan Babel
Diego Cavalieri
Nabil El-Zhar
Charles Itandje
Milan Jovanovic
Sotirios Kyrgiakos
Dirk Kuyt
Lucas Leiva
Javier Mascherano
Damien Plessis
Christian Poulsen
Pepe Reina
Maxi Rodriguez
Martin Skrtel
Fernando Torres

Under-21 (born after 1/1/89):
David Amoo
Daniel Ayala
Dean Bouzanis
Gerardo Bruna
Lauri Dalla Valle
Nathan Eccleston
Peter Gulasci
Martin Hansen
Thomas Ince
Emiliano Insua
Steven Irwin
Martin Kelly
Krisztian Nemeth
David Ngog*
Dani Pacheco
Victor Palsson
Jack Robinson
Jonjo Shelvey
Danny Wilsonª

FYI: For thoroughness' sake, I included Insua and Plessis, even though they don't have squad numbers, because both have played first-team matches and are (technically) still with the club.
* will not count as homegrown after leaving the under-21 list.
ª I'm still not 100% sure about Danny Wilson. His birthday is 12/27/91. He'll be 21 at the start of his third season with the club, but by the time he's been with the club through three seasons he'll be 22, and his birthday is four days before the January 1 under-21 cut-off. So I'm not positive. And can we count him signing in '09/10, because of the page 89 line where the season "commences" once the window closes? One of the few times bureaucratic speak eludes even me.

Even though Liverpool doesn't have eight senior homegrown players, the squad's nearly compliant with Premier League rules as it stands. One of Cavalieri or Itandje (yep, he's still here) are the most likely departures from the list of non-homegrown players, but we can also expect to see the backs of Plessis and El Zhar on the basis of preseason appearances. Remove two of them, and Liverpool will be compliant next season as well, when Ngog counts as a non-homegrown player. And remove all four, which looks the most likely (and that's not even getting into Mascherano, Kyrgiakos, or any other rumored exits), and Liverpool actually has space for a few more non-homegrown signings.

Liverpool used 30 players in the league last season, rising to 32 if we count Cavalieri and Plessis' cup appearances. Nine of them counted as u21, and four of those only had one substitute appearance; only Ngog and Insua played anywhere near regularly. The team used 18 non-homegrown players (again, 20 if you count the couple of cup games), and Benayoun, Riera, Degen, Dossena, and Voronin aren't with the club anymore. Liverpool easily could have complied with this rule last season if necessary.

Buying British is important in this day and age, but it's not as if that's a new wrinkle. Because of the amount of eligible, talented youngsters and as Liverpool's so close to the cutoff of foreign players as it is, buying Brad Jones makes little sense to me unless Cavalieri's angling for an exit – then Liverpool would need an experienced back-up, no matter how good a prospect Gulasci looks. Sure, it gives the club more wiggle room, and that could be necessary if Liverpool finds the means to make more signings. And Liverpool will need more English players if Darby and Spearing – already on the fringe of the squad – don't make it. But it's not a Manchester City situation where actual sacrifices will have to be made because of the size of the foreign contingent. Liverpool will be filling out the squad with youngsters no matter the amount of senior homegrown players; Ngog, Kelly, Pacheco, Wilson, etc. will have roles to play this season.

Teams will now pay even more of a premium for English players, and yes, Liverpool have fewer than the majority of Premier League clubs. Which is why the youth set-up so painstakingly rebuilt over the last few years is more crucial than ever. It's telling that out of the 19 under-21 players, only Ngog (and possibly Wilson) won't count as homegrown if they make the senior squad list. And not that it matters, but seven of the above 19 u-21 players are English.

Long story short, it means that Liverpool has little need to seek out the Koncheskys, Bridges, and Carlton Coles of the world simply to have another English passport on the books. Especially when the club's already scouring under sofa cushions for spare change.


Shane said...

Hmm. Players born Jan 1 1989 count as under 21 for this season?

Does that not mean David Ngog is an u21 for this season and thus will have spent 3 seasons as an u21 at LFC? Therefore next season he should be a 'homegrown' player?

Shane said...

ie the same scenario Danny Wilson will find himself in, I think?

nate said...

Hmm. Maybe. As Ngog was 19 when he joined in Summer 2008, I assumed that he wouldn't count, because he'd definitely be 21 before 36 months/3 full seasons.

But you might be right: 08/09, 09/10, and 10/11 while he's still registered as an u21 player might allow him to count as homegrown. Might even be more cut and dry than Wilson because his birthdate (April 1 1989) is definitively after the January cut-off.

I wrote this to try and answer people's questions and simplify the matter, and ended up confusing myself. The Premier League in a nutshell.

nate said...

While your point is a good one, and I'm trying to find for absolute certain, everything I've read, from actual articles by journalists to forum posts from people who know what they're talking about say that Ngog will count as a foreign player come next season.

It seems that even though he counts as an u21 this season, because he's already 21 before the start of this season (no matter the PL u21 classification), he'll count as senior foreign next season, as I originally thought.

Not that that helps any with the Wilson scenario, as he's currently 18, and I'm still confused over how that'll affect him the season where he turns 21.

Alex said...

I suppose Wilson will make the cut, although he turns 21 during his third season the rules, as u so nicely printed them here, says -or the end of the Season during which he turns 21..

nate said...

Yeah, as you quote - "or the end of the Season during which he turns 21" – leads me to believe that he should count as homegrown. Having to differentiate between that and u21/January cut-off wasn't helping my thought process. But the first part of the sentence, the 3 seasons/36 months (and he'll turn 21 in December of his 3rd season, before the January cut-off for u21 young players, although that shouldn't matter) made me put in the 'I'm not 100%' qualification.

Long story short: thanks for being as crystal clear as usual, Premier League, and (thankfully), it wasn't the main point of the post anyway.

Alex said...

Not the main point maybe but certainly very interesting to discuss :)

Very nice blogg u put up here, haven't follow it on a daily basis until recently and therefore don't know "who u are". ;) Like where you're from, age and such information. If u wouldn't mind putting in some info about yourself here.

I myself live in Sweden, 23 years old. My (always)increasingly interest for LFC force me to find new inputs about all that's to know about the club and I love new perspectives so I'm happy to have find this blogg naturally. Take care /Alex - can also be reached at my email: lindstromalex@hotmail.com, if u don't feel like putting that information in the post.

Anonymous said...

I might be wrong, but wrt Danny Wilson, if he has been registered with Liverpool through August 31, 2013 (the end of the Season during which he turns 21, as his birthday is 12/27/91) he'll meet the requirements of a homegrown player. NOTE he would not meet the requirements of 3 year by his 21st birthday 12/27/2012.

Steven said...

Surely El Zhar is "homegrown", signed in 2006 at 21(classed as U-21). Lucas 24 signed in 2007 at 20.
Babel 24 signed 2007 aswell but still only 21. remember they DONT have to be english which really makes this rule...pointless. e.g. brad jones is an aussie. Arsenals 7'homegrown' players are all foreign, fabregas clichy bendther and many more. BBC says Home-grown players do not have to be English; home-grown players are defined as those who "irrespective of nationality or age, have been affiliated to the FA or Welsh FA for a period of three seasons or 36 months prior to 21st birthday"

plus we wouldnt have stood a chance of meeting this rule last year, only gerrard carra an johnson qualified