'25-Man Squad' & "Home Grown" Rules In EPL

We've had squad rotation. But this will be the season when for some English Premier League players the game comes grinding to a halt. They will still be collecting pay packets of £40,000, £50,000, or even more every week, but they will spend match day sat suited in the stand. That's the bizarre effect of the League's new 25-man squad rule as it starts to bite at the clubs who have thrown fortunes at players.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said former England defender Jonathan Woodgate won't get a place in his plans for the season, and that showed up a problem haunting all the major clubs. Big names like Owen Hargreaves at Manchester United and Fulham's record £10.5million signing Andy Johnson could have their comebacks from injury put on ice until January because their clubs won't waste a squad space on anybody who is not fit.

Free-spending Manchester City, with 33 senior players and plans to buy more, might have no space for the likes of Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz. On Monday night one Premier League manager warned: "For years the top boys have been able to keep lots of players happy by giving them big money and keep changing the team.But what's it going to do to morale behind the scenes when suddenly two or three are told they have no chance of even lacing a pair of boots up on match day.'

The new rule says each club will have to name their 25-man squad by September 1 - the day after the summer transfer window shuts. Eight have to be 'home grown', meaning they must have spent at least three years training with an English or Welsh professional club before they reached the age of 21. After that the only players not on that list who can play will be any under the age of 21 on January 1, 2010.

The system was agreed by all the club chairmen last September but it seems managers are only now realising the consequences. Redknapp said of Woodgate, once hailed by Sir Bobby Robson as 'the best defender in the country': "I couldn't put him in my 25. You can't have somebody in who's never going to play, if he's not going to be fit. He's got to prove that between now and the start of the season and he's a long way off." So Woodgate may have played his last Premier League game for the club.

The rule represents a major change for the League. Last season Portsmouth used 33 players, while the average top-flight club used 27, picking 12 English players and seven under the age of 21. The new rule aims to make room for younger home-grown talent to come through and prevent the biggest clubs stockpiling talent. If they buy a player, somebody else will have to be shown the door. But players who have years to run on contracts worth massive money won't give up millions of pounds to play for other clubs, so big clubs might have to send them on loan while paying most of their wages.

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