By Bill Heaney
It was one of those throwaway remarks you would only hear from an English football commentator.
I don’t even remember which game it was, but he informed the viewers how wonderful it was to have seven English players on the pitch when the whistle blew for full-time.
Another, more realistic, way of looking at this might be that there were only seven home grown players on the pitch.
And since this was an English premiership match, why were there so few English players taking part?
What has happened in England is that fewer and fewer players at English clubs are home grown.
Even the players who are part of the England international squad are not an automatic pick for their team’s weekend and midweek matches.
English clubs have become franchises – big, money-making franchises – not football clubs as we used to know them.
Then players came from the communities in which the club was situated. They went to local schools, came from local streets and worked in local factories. They had jobs to top up their football wages. They were local heroes.
Nowadays, there are few local lads playing for local teams and, in my lifetime during which Celtic’s European Cup winning team in 1967 were brought up within a 30-mile radius of Glasgow, things have changed. Changed utterly.
Celtic, having lost Leigh Griffiths with mental health problems, will be looking for a striker come the January transfer window. But where will they look?
Will it be Baillieston or Brazil? Will it be Linthouse or Lyon?
I hope it is Baillieston and that some young Scot is given the opportunity to play for his local team.
Too few of our own youngsters who are “signed” now by professional clubs from the age of seven ever make the top grade.
This is not because they are not good enough – but because they don’t get the chance to gain vital experience, which is essential in every area of life.
Why don’t the football authorities in Scotland make it happen for these boys (and girls)?
Why don’t they limit the number of foreign players to three out of the eleven chosen by the clubs to make up their team?
That would give youth a chance and possibly even extend the popularity of the game beyond television.
We might see some bums on seats instead of the handful of people who turn out at the moment for live televised matches with any atmosphere.
Brendan Rodgers, Kieran Tierney, Scott Brown and Ryan Christie.
Two home-grown youngsters who have taken their chance to play at the top level in Scotland are Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie, of Celtic.
Brendan Rodgers’ team fairly missed them at Easter Road when they went down 2-0 to Hibernian on Sunday.
An indication of what I was writing about in the first part of this column is that the scorers in that game were Vykintas Slivka, who struck after just 46 seconds, and Florian Kamberi, who was the man of the match.
These are names you would be unlikely to find in Irvine Welsh’s novels or even the telephone book for Pilton or Wester Hailes, two of Edinburgh’s biggest housing estates.
Tierney is some player and he will hopefully be adorning the Scottish game for many years to come.
It’s the same with Christie, who has come to the fore only in the last month or so after being given the confidence to play to his best through being given his chance and gaining experience.
The talent was always there. Fortunately, it wasn’t extinguished by the tackle which led to him being carried off in his last game for the club.
The midfielder was carried off on a stretcher during the club’s defeat by Salzburg on Thursday after rushing to block a shot by Takumi Minamino.
Sometimes things get out of hand and that happens when players, such as Scott Brown, are past their sell-by date and slow in the tackle, as he was when he was a week late with his tackle on Vykintas Slivka, who was forced to retire early from the match.
Lest anyone gets a sniff of xenophobia about this column today, I am not in the least against having foreign players in our game.
Memories of Don Kitchenbrand and Johnny Hubbard from South Africa at Rangers; John Hewie, also from South Africa, at Hibernian, and Johannes Edvaldsson (Big Shuggie) from Iceland, Ľubomír Moravčík, from Czechoslovakia, and, of course, Henrik Larsson, from Sweden, are just a few of a long list of foreign stars who have adorned our (once) beautiful game.
Daniel Candeias, Stevie Gerrard and Kyle Laffery – top of the league.
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers returned to the top of the Premiership after a slim 1-0 home win over Hamilton Academicals, BBC Scotland reports..
With Celtic losing earlier in the day to Hibs, Rangers’ three points were enough to move them above Kilmarnock on goal difference.
Daniel Candeias fired Rangers into an early lead just moments after Kyle Lafferty had headed the ball off the post. But they struggled to add more despite their dominance, with Hamilton offering little at the other end.
The win ended a run of three games without a victory across all competitions for Gerrard’s side.
After stumbles against Aberdeen and Dundee, Rangers had relinquished the lead in the Premiership, while Thursday’s Europa League loss to Rapid Vienna meant an exit from Europe.
Although they won, Gerrard may well be concerned by Rangers lack of cutting edge, having now scored just one goal from open play in the last six games.
Maybe – like Celtic – the Ibrox club should also be in for a striker come the January transfer window?
Celtic will be in a “really strong position” when they face Valencia in the Europa League, believes Brendan Rodgers.
The Scottish champions were drawn to face the La Liga side in the last 32 after finishing second in their group behind Salzburg.
And the Celtic boss is hoping his side go one step further than last season when the clubs meet in February.
“It’s a game we’ll be excited by,” he said.
It’s not just whether you are playing home or away that gives you an advantage in football. It’s down to the kit you are wearing. Celtic never looked comfortable in those yellow jerseys at Easter Road and Manchester United even more so in the silver grey shirts their kit man laid out for them for the Liverpool match, which they lost 3-1. Jose Mourinho, who has just been sacked and is leaving Old Trafford with an £18 million pay off, should have taken a leaf out of Fergie’s book. Sir Alex once ordered his squad to change out of a silver strip at half time during a game when the opposition were running rings round them. They came out for the second half a completely different team, dressed in their traditional red jerseys, and trounced the opposition. Mourinho’s failure to think outside the (penalty) box may have led to his departure. He still had two years of his contract to go. Who now for the Man U hot seat?