Protection (Part Two) – Archive

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (May 14th 2010)

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published in the magazine in May 2010. We republish it now as we think it is topical that even with rules in place the big clubs – in this case FC Barçelona – are being treated differently to smaller clubs like Cardiff City and FC Midtjylland.

Derek Miller


Former professional footballer and FA coach Noel Blake1 has a different outlook to that of the Director of Cardiff Citys academy, Neal Ardley (for further information on Ardley’s opinion see – one he admits is selfish.

While academies and centres of excellence just want the best players regardless of nationality or racial origins, Blake wants more from them. He wants English academies to develop English talent.

“From a selfish point of view I wouldn’t want foreign boys to come to the academy anyway in all honesty, because this is England”, he told us exclusively. “Obviously I’ve got a selfish point of view. I want to see English players developed in England. At the appropriate time – senior level – fine, but I don’t think our academies should be encouraging young players from far afield, who can’t play for the national teams, to come to England. I don’t think it’s right.”

Developing Young English Talent

Blake wants English academies to concentrate on developing English players. “Forget that I was working for the FA, because I was saying this before”, he said, “I had a couple of foreign boys in the academy, but they played for their nation. The fact of the matter is as I have said previously and I stand by this statement, I wouldn’t like to see our academies or youth development programme flooded with non-English players, because for me we’ve got to get back into a system where the English players come through our academy system”.

His main concern is ensuring that young English talent comes through and benefits first and foremost from the academies and centres of excellence of English clubs. “My views are in terms of youth development programmes”, said Blake. “I don’t think it would be wise for young players from further afield to be allowed academy places, so I can’t sit here and endorse twenty or so foreign players coming to our academies”.

Quality Imports

But Blake has nothing against foreign players in principle. English leagues have benefited from top foreign talent. Gianfranco Zola was one of the most skilful foreign imports, becoming a Chelsea legend in the process. He helped to bring through young players at Chelsea. Zola remembered when he was a young player in Italy and had the opportunity to learn from top foreigners that made Serie A the envy of Europe at the time.

Zola found himself denied opportunities at Napoli because he was behind two foreigners in the pecking order – one was the Brasilian, Careca. The other was one of the greatest footballers ever to play the game – Diego Armando Maradona. Zola makes no complaint about it. They were better than him at the time and he had the opportunity to learn from them in training. It made him a better player.

He eventually moved to Parma and was a great success there before being forced out of the club by Carlo Ancelotti – the Chelsea manager accepts that he made a mistake letting Zola go. Parmas loss was Chelseas gain, but Blakes concern over foreigners is not at first team level.

It is domestic talent in English academies that Blake wants to protect. “In terms of senior players that’s a different matter”, said Blake. “If the club then want to sign senior players at first team level, that’s down to them”.

But if a European club had the opportunity to sign a schoolboy Lionel Messi or Cesc Fàbregas, should they refuse? Barçelona didnt and nor did Arsenal and nor would other clubs when offered the chance to sign such talent so cheaply. They could have waited, but the price would have been significantly higher and thats the bottom line.

1After seven years as an FA coach including spells in charge of England Under-19 and Under-20, Blake left in June 2014. He joined Blackpool despite the chaotic situation at that club.

Sevilla hope to poop Baleʼs Party

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (August 11th 2014)

Team Spirit


Unai Emery Etxegoien is not surprised by Gareth Baleʼs success in Spain. The first time the former Valencia coach encountered the mercurial Welshman Sevilla were on the wrong end of a 7-3 drubbing, but Emeryʼs charges got their revenge. Emery concedes that Real Madrid are the favourites for tomorrowʼs UEFA Supercup. “Of course Real Madrid is the favourite, but we believe we can repeat the feat and beat them”, Emery told a pre-match press conference this evening.

He conceded that they had a strategy, but much would depend on whether Carlo Ancelottiʼs side allowed Sevilla to execute it. Newly appointed Sevilla skipper Federico Fazio praised his teamʼs spirit. “We were able to get that team spirit to overcome opponents that were stronger than us”, the Argentine international said. “The way we work we can bring our qualities to bear on the match”.


The Homecoming

Gareth Baleʼs world record transfer fee hasnʼt fazed the Welshman. Baleʼs homecoming has dominated headlines, but both Bale and his coach Ancelotti expect to see more from him this season. “Itʼs great to be back home, but the most important thing is to win”, Bale said. “Itʼs nice not being new and start the season settled. Itʼs a lot easier having a pre-season than waiting for a transfer to go through”.


Ancelotti expects an even better season from him than the last. “Gareth last year had made a fantastic season”, Ancelotti said. “This season is different. He knows the team-mates; he knows the club. Iʼm sure he will be better”.

Emery joined in the praise. “He has adapted quickly and itʼs down to his character and personality”, Emery said. “His style and team match and that has been key to his success”. Meanwhile, Ancelotti couldnʼt resist. “I donʼt know if heʼs going to play”, Ancelotti said. “Could be strange if he starts on the bench”.



Despite his wishes to follow compatriot James Rodríguez out of the French Riviera Radamel Falcao looks set to continue his purgatory in the Principality. Meanwhile the 22-year-old assists leader in Ligue Un capitalised on a magnificent World Cup to earn his move to the Bernabeu for £63m. World Cup winner Toni Kroos also made the move to the European Champions.


I saw really good player with fantastic quality”, Ancelotti said of James Rodríguez. “Of course he can help the team to be better. Rodriguez will start. I think he can play in front on the wings, behind the forward, but he can also play deeper”. Ancelotti confirmed that the prodigiously talented Colombian play-maker and Kroos will start the Supercup at the Cardiff City Stadium tomorrow night.

While both Emery and Ancelotti want to win the UEFA Supercup tomorrow night both know the real business is La Liga.


Spanish Resurgence

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (April 40th 2014)

Demolition Derby

Atlético de Madrid’s 3-1 demolition of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tonight ensured an all-Madrid final. Yesterday, Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid demolished Pep Guardiola’s Tiki-Taka 4-0 in München and 5-0 on aggregate. It’s hard to remember that just a year ago largely the same squad – Javi Martínez was the only major addition to Jupp Heynckes’ treble winners. Last year German football came of age with the all German Champion’s League Final, but a year is a long time in football. The Spanish – Madrid actually – are back with a vengeance.

Guardiola was handed a football lesson by Ancelotti last night and his nemesis José Mourinho got one tonight. The bus had been parked at the Vicente Calderón last week, but a 0-0 draw was far from a disaster as Diego Simeone knew. Chelsea not only had to score, they had to prevent Atlético from doing so and if they couldn’t they would have to attack and be more vulnerable themselves – exactly as Simeone planned.

Faulty Radar

The baton was passed tonight to a talented young coach – one who already boasts trophies on his résumé. Quite how Simeone passed under English radar for so long while building a sterling reputation is one of football’s great mysteries, but nobody underestimates El Cholo in Spain. Lacking the spending power and the depth of the squads of Barçelona and Real Madrid and having been forced to sell Radamel Falcao – it is often forgotten that while learning his trade in Argentina Simeone worked with a young Falcao.

Despite losing the services in recent years of Fernando Torres, Sergio Agüero, Diego Forlán and Radamel Falcao for small fortunes Atlético somehow remain competitive and Simeone remains at the helm – he is just 44. His team leads La Liga by 4 points with just three matches remaining _ real are a further two points adrift, although Ancelotti bagged the first silverware on offer, winning the Copa del Rey at Mestalla against Barçelona.

El Cholo

Atlético were beaten in the semi-final by the eventual winners. If results go their way this weekend only mathematics could prevent them claiming the title for the first time since Simeone was part of the 1995-96 double-winning Atlético team. He won plenty of trophies as a player along with 106 caps for Argentina.

He has a mixed record as a coach in Argentina, including titles before coming into his own in Madrid. He has already delivered the Europa League title, UEFA Super-cup and Copa del Rey and in his third year at the club has the opportunity to win La Liga and the Champion’s League.

He has already outwitted former Real Madrid coach José Mourinho, but Ancelotti poses a very different challenge and one the young Argentine will be relishing as the former Chelsea coach who won the double in his first season at Stamford Bridge denied El Cholo the chance of a treble.

His opponent at the Stadium of Light in Lisbon on May 24th has already won the Champion’s League with AC Milan as well as League titles in Italy, England and France. He is the only double-winner in English football not to win the Manager of the Year Award. It promises to be a fascinating battle of wits for Lisbon to savour. Reports of the demise of Spanish football have once again proved greatly exaggerated.