Foreigners ruining English game, says Ardiles
His dreams of winning the cup for Tottenham — or Tott-ing-ham as it came out in his Argentine accent — came true 29 years ago.
As one of the first overseas players to ply his trade in England, when he moved to Spurs not long after winning the World Cup with Argentina in 1978, Ossie Ardiles was an undoubted hit.
And with his compatriot Ricky Villa scoring arguably the best individual goal in FA Cup final history as the north-London side beat Manchester City in the 1981 Wembley decider, it was an exciting time to be a Tottenham fan.
Those old enough to remember will recall that foreign players coming into England added excitement to a league that previously drew players from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic, but very few from elsewhere in the world.
Nowadays things have changed so much that there are managers sending teams into matches without a single British or Irish player in the starting line-up.
The FA are trying to turn things around by insisting that Premier League clubs name eight ‘home grown’ players in a squad of 25 — although they are allowed unlimited players under the age of 21.
That’s fine, until you realise that Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas — a World Cup winner with Spain — is as home grown as any player born in England, because he’s been with the Gunners since he was 16-years-old. Although his mate Fernando Torres will be branded a foreigner.
And even Ardiles thinks things have gone too far.
“The foreign players have made the Premier League what it is — the best league in the world,” said Ardiles, while he was in Dublin to help launch ESPN’s Premier League package for the new season.
“I don’t think now you can say that they are bad for it, but having foreign players has made it tough to develop English players and because of that the national team has suffered.
“I think that only the top, top quality foreign players should be allowed to come. Outside of that bracket it can just be cheap labour because they cost less in transfer fees than English players and maybe less in salary.
“I think in the Premier League foreign players should be allowed, but further down, in the Championship and below, there should be restrictions or not allowed at all.”
Ardiles still regards Tottenham as his team. That’s hardly surprising given that he played at White Hart Lane for a decade and returned five years later as manager.
And he believes that finishing fourth in the Premier League last season isn’t the height of what Spurs can achieve.
“What Harry Redknapp has done at Tottenham is nothing short of a miracle,” said Ardiles.
“To go from being in the relegation zone to finishing fourth last season was simply an incredible achievement. This is a huge season for him now with the Champions League for the first time, provided they can get through the play-off. I think they can challenge for the top place.
“The top four isn’t the top four anymore. It is very open and there will be a real battle to get into those places.”