Premier League’s lesser lights set to benefit from new rules

Until recently, many football fans appeared unaware of a major new rule that will come into force in this seasons Premier League. In some cases, it also seems the managers themselves have failed to take the rule into consideration till now. The new rule states that clubs in the Premiership may only register a 25-man squad for the coming season; the only players not registered in the 25 that will be eligible to play are those under the age of 21. The other key aspect of the rule is that the 25-man squads must include eight ‘home-grown’ players. This does not necessarily mean that a home-grown player has to be English, a player merely has to have been registered with an English or Welsh club for three years between the ages of 16 and 21; Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas for instance, would be considered a home-grown player. The rule is set to have a major impact on Premier League clubs and players, particularly those at the top end of the league.

The impact of the rule for some players has already been felt, with some high-profile footballers set to miss out on any action this season. Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp has already conceded that injury ravaged Jonathan Woodgate will not be included in the Spurs 25.

BBC Sport reports Redknapp as stating “Woody’s nowhere near right now. I couldn’t put him in my 25. It’s just impossible at the moment”.

A similar situation has emerged with Manchester United’s Owen Hargreaves, with Alex Ferguson telling MUTV “I do not know when he will be back.”

For players with long term injuries at the start of the season, the new rule may prove a nightmare, with teams unable to change their rosters till the transfer window opens in January. For young players however, it is a great opportunity to gain valuable playing time, as a club can field as many players under the age of 21 that it desires. Those at the top table though, may well be sitting rather uncomfortably in anticipation of the rule.

Manchester City’s mammoth squad will certainly have to be trimmed, especially as it appears Roberto Mancini has no intention of ending his summer transfer activities. Players such as Craig Bellamy, Stephen Ireland, Robinho and Jo may all be shown the exit door before the start of the season. Chelsea and Liverpool also face problems, with both teams having relatively few home-grown senior players in their squads. This may mean players such as Michael Mancienne and Jay Spearing respectively, will find themselves in the squads of their teams at the expense of more experienced players. The new rule however, may well represent a great opportunity for those sides that are lower down in the Premier League pecking order. Senior players will want to play, and if they are not going to be registered in their sides squads they will have to move to pastures new in order to find playing opportunities. This could mean that some players will move to sides they would never have considered before. Transfer fees should also be lessened, with a club needing to sell a player or risk having him as a dead weight picking up wages, the buying club will almost invariably be in the position of power. We could see therefore, a much greater spread of talent within the league, making it more exciting and competitive in the process. Whatever happens between now and the start of the season, the who’s in, the who’s out and the transfer merry-go round that will ensue, it should provide fascinating viewing.

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