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Sunderland’s Di Canio hits back in foreigners debate - is he right?

Di Canio

The Italian thinks that the influx of foreign players into the Premier League will help the national team, not hinder it. But has he signed too many?

Much has been made of new English FA chairman Greg Dyke’s comments regarding the number of foreign players in the Premier League and the need for change for the good of the national team.

With only 32 per cent of the players that stepped out in the English top flight last season actually English, Roy Hodgson also feels that the influx of players from abroad is hurting England’s international chances.

However, Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio, who has signed up 14 overseas players as part of the upheaval of this squad in the North East this summer alone, says that bringing foreign stars to England can only be a good thing.

"I do not agree that a big foreign influence in the English game is a bad thing," the Italian told The Sunderland Echo.

"I can sympathise with those that do, but I also feel that there is a lot of benefit that English football can get from being exposed to footballers and managers from abroad.

"Better footballers from abroad can help raise standards in England, in my opinion, and the same goes with managers from abroad who bring fresh techniques and ideas.

"If English players buy into the those techniques and ideas that are used regularly abroad, and with a lot of success, then maybe they will not go out of tournaments in the early stages of them."

Di Canio’s thoughts are all valid and it is correct that young English players that are exposed to international quality foreign team-mates or opponents will only improve due to the raising of the standard.

However, that is just the problem. For every top-class overseas star in the Premier League, there is a mediocre foreigner. English clubs should always welcome players of top quality, but the influx of foreign fringe players is the problem behind the lack of strength in depth that England currently finds itself in at national level.

Take Di Canio’s Sunderland as an absolute prime example. Yes, there are foreign players such as Sebastian Larsson and Emanuele Giaccherini that are international stars that can bring favourable qualities to the club, league and young players of England. But can the likes of Charalampos Mavrias, El-Hadji Ba and Valentin Roberge offer the same positive traits?

The Larsson’s and Giaccherini’s will always be welcome to the Premier League – they are critical to the continued high standards that are on show week-in, week-out in the English top flight. However, mediocre foreign imports threaten the playing time of English players that are more-than able to compete in the Premier League.

Take the example of someone like Craig Gardner – a solid English professional that has played over 100 Premier League games for Aston Villa, Birmingham and Sunderland. The influx of also-ran foreigners will impinge on his time on the pitch, and many of the overseas players are no better than the home-grown alternative.

Foreign players will continue to raise the standard of the English game, but there needs to be a quota system in place to limit the number, allowing home-grown players that are good to feature the chance to play.

17 of the current 28 first-team players at Sunderland are foreign, with the other 11 from the UK or Ireland. If Di Canio was allowed, for argument’s sake, 10 foreign players in his squad instead of 17, with the rest made up of home-grown talent, would Sunderland be a worse side? Probably not, but Roy Hodgson would have more players to select from at national level. The Stadium of Light faithful wouldn’t miss Mavrias, Ba or Roberge either.

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