The Only Way Is Orient - Foreign Invasion
In his latest blog Steven Roast discusses the role of foreign footballers in England
Are there too many foreigner players in English football? Is the amount of overseas footballers playing in the Premiership damaging the progression of the national team? Both are questions regularly asked over the last 20 years, arguably since the Premier League`s formation. What with the recent acquisition of Romain Vincelot`s signature to join fellow Frenchman Mathieu Baudry at Brisbane Road and the rumours of a takeover by Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis it seems an ideal time to take a look at the foreign influence in E10.
At the end of last season the total number of foreign players in the Premier League stood at 333 which made up a staggering 62.4% of all players. Some may be surprised but then what would you think when I said the Championship total was 342 which made up 49.4% of all players. Is this too much? Surely in a country such as England who are considered one of the world powers in football, if not by some of our own increasingly unimpressed fans but by people all over the world, it is. Whatever our achievements, or lack of, since 1966 to play England especially at Wembley is high if not top of all international footballers to do list. To then think that more than half of the players from our top two divisions can`t be considered for selection by Roy Hodgson something must be wrong. There of course are the arguments of the financial clout of the Premier League and worldwide exposure as a result. But shouldn`t safeguarding our current and hopefully future standing as a major force in international football be more important than the lining of businessman`s pockets and making sure the boardroom is well stocked with prawn sandwiches? It is a debate than will no doubt rumble on for another 20 years.
Dropping down to our own division a total of 185 foreigners were registered with League One clubs last season making up almost a third at 32.5%. Thinking back to my early days supporting Orient the only foreigner you`d expect to see was our very own Kiwi Chris Zoricich! In the current O`s squad we now boast our aforementioned French duo along with Kevin Lisbie and Anthony Griffith who have played at international level for Jamaica and Montserrat respectively. With the likes of Bakayogo, Akpa Akpro, Sodje and Showumni becoming household names in the third tier it`s not just the Premier League who can boast a cast of nations.
On the rare occasions an Orient manager has dabbled in the transfer market abroad it has produced mixed results. Arguably the best signing from outside our shores was the legend that is Amara Simba. The Frenchman played in the 1999 Play Off side fittingly getting a run out at Wembley for the final. Tommy Taylor tried to repeat the trick the following season by snapping up another French import Emmanuel Vasseur. A member of the French amateur sides Calais who reached their Cup Final he came promising to add some much needed skill and flair to the Orient midfield. He made 2 substitute appearances before Taylor said "Au Reviour" and sent him back from where he`d came! That same season saw the arrival of the long haired assassin that was Lorenzo Pinnamonte. Arriving on a wave of optimism on loan from Brentford, who saw enough in him to pay £75,000 for his services, the former Brighton fans favourite was tasked to score the goals to cement the O`s play off place. Instead his flowing locks turned out to be more impressive than his goal scoring and after 2 goals in 11 appearances the Italian returned to the Bees.
Rarely does a player achieve cult status at a football club but few O`s fans who saw him play would disagree Ahmet Brkovic did just that. The diminutive Croatian arrived on a free from those giants of Croatian football HNK Dubrovnik in 1999 with many O`s fans wondering whether Taylor had pulled off a master stroke or signed another turkey. Thankfully we were treated to a series of dazzling displays from the midfielder which defied Taylor`s otherwise rugged style of play. Managing 69 appearances in an Orient shirt culminating in the Millennium Stadium Play off Final defeat to Blackpool the little genius exercised his right to move on as a free agent when his contract expired and he joined Luton Town. Honourable mentions must also go to John Tehoue and Paul Jose Mpoku who both left a lasting impression during their spells with us. So for every Simba there is an Adrian Patulea and for every Richard Garcia there is an errr… Steve Riches but on the whole the foreign invasion has been kind to the O`s and played a big part in some of our most memorable times in recent years.
It`s not just at playing level that the foreign influence has grown. With just 5 English managers currently employed at Premier League clubs we have seen the likes of Martinez, Poyet and Rosler in the away dug out at Brisbane Road in recent seasons. Often brought in by flamboyant owners also from overseas a Russian billionaire or an Arab Sheik is what most clubs dream of to take them to new heights. But for every success story of Abramovich at Chelsea there is the flip side such as Portsmouth`s demise since the Alexandre Gaydamak takeover. The recent rumours of interest from Napoli`s chairman has provoked the expected reaction from the Orient faithful. Whether it would be the best or worst thing to happen to the club depends who you speak to. It may all turn out to be paper talk and exaggeration but at least it have given us a chance to dream of a cash injection into the club and maybe seeing the future Cavanni pulling on an Orient shirt. Comparisons will inevitably be made with Watford last season and how the Pozzo takeover almost won promotion to the promise land of the Premier League at the first time of asking. But with the League set to enforce stricter limits on loan players from abroad it`s unlikely O`s fans would have to brush up on their Italian pronunciation to read through the entire team sheet. Still a few Napoli youngsters with Slade`s current crop and maybe a few new signings courtesy of Mr De Laurentiis` Euros could all lead to a very enjoyable season down Brisbane Road. Now we just have to wait for him to take up Hearn`s offer to give us a call. After all 'It`s good to talk`…
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