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25 Man Squads – The Forgotten Six

In a week that new FA chairman Greg Dyke ‘revealed’ some startling information about the amount of Englishmen in the Premier League and made it seem like a brand new phenomenon by talking in a forewarning tone, the release of the 25 man squads made for yet more panic.

The likes of Arsenal, although Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t need to be registered as under 21s, and Chelsea failed to name the eight ‘home-grown’ players required, meaning they were forced to submit squads with under 25 names registered, whilst Liverpool’s and Manchester City’s ‘home-grown’ lists were bolstered by several players who, despite matching the qualifying criteria to be a ‘home-grown’ player, aren’t qualified to play for the English national team.

Nicklas Bendtner: a 'home-grown' player

Nicklas Bendtner: a ‘home-grown’ player

Whilst the bigger clubs in the Premier League are always going to attract the best of the best from around the world, you would like to think it isn’t a pipedream for them to provide a larger pool of talent for Roy Hodgson’s side.

However, some clubs managed to fill their 25 squads with at least eight home-grown players who can represent England. If Dyke’s plans are anything to go by, it won’t be too long before every Premier League club can submit squads filled in similar ways.

With some clubs filling their squads, there are always a handful of players who miss out on selection. With all this talk about the lack of English qualified players in the Premier League, it’s almost ironic that of the six high profile players not to be selected, two of them are ‘home-grown’ players that don’t qualify to play for England, whilst two others are Scottish players who don’t qualify for ‘home-grown’ status. Of the other two players who will have to find something else to do on a Saturday until at least January, one is an English ‘home-grown’ player, whilst the other isn’t home-grown’ at all.

One thing the forgotten six might choose to do/be forced into against their will is to join a Football League club on loan until the New Year. With each player more than capable of doing a job for a Championship club, expect them to be ‘proving a point’ (other clichéd motivational phrases are available) in England’s second tier shortly. Here’s a look at the six in detail; Burnley is that way, Federico.

CRAIG CONWAY

Age: 28/Position: Winger/Current club: Cardiff City

With 56 league appearances over two seasons for the Re…Bluebirds and a respected player amongst the club’s fans, Conway is simply a victim of Cardiff having one too many players to choose from. It could have been Tommy Smith, it could have been Joe Mason, but Conway was the unfortunate one to miss out.

Conway played a crucial role in Cardiff's success last season

Conway played a crucial role in Cardiff’s success last season

Conway expressed a desire to leave the club in November last year, but was immediately given some game time and showed what an excellent performer he is at Championship level, putting a number of impressive displays in his 25 games, which merited two goals. The fact he scored the goal against Burnley the sealed the title for the Welsh club makes his exclusion from the squad all the more sour tasting.

The Scotland international, who has five caps to his name, would be an excellent addition to the squad of any Championship club who are aiming to emulate the success of Cardiff last season. Not only is he a steady, hard-working performer, but his ability to play on either side of the midfield makes him the perfect emergency loan signing; talented and versatile.

FEDERICO MACHEDA(AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA)

Age: 22/Position: Striker/Current club: Manchester United

The former Italian under 21 international hasn’t scored a league goal since November 2010, a time when Southampton were a League One club, the idea of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher being chummy on TV seemed laughable as they played for rival clubs and England were definitely going to be hosting a World Cup in 2018, but one strike five seasons ago will give the fans of whatever club Macheda ends up that he is actually a relatively decent footballer.

Macheda during a fruitless spell at Stuggart

Macheda during a fruitless spell at Stuggart

With Manchester United losing 2-1 and needing a win in a very competitive title race, Sir Alex Ferguson throws on a reserve team striker with too much gel in his hair for his first team debut. Come the 90th minute, the scores are level, and Ryan Giggs passes the ball to the feet of Macheda who, with his back to goal, turns his man and curls the ball beautifully into the far corner to win the game and send Martin Tyler into hysteria. A legend akin to David Nugent’s goal snatching appearance for England and Ali Dia’s game for Southampton was born.

Yes, Macheda has added a handful of goals since that game and played for the likes of QPR, Stuggart and Sampdoria on loan, but he’s never lived up to the hype. Whilst those loans have failed to kick-start his career, a move to a Football League club might be just what he needs. He’s performed well over the years in the League Cup for Manchester United against Championship opposition, including the likes of Barnsley, Leeds and Crystal Palace, and spending time on loan in the second tier might well bring his eye for goal back.

FLORIAN MARANGE

Age: 27/Position: Left and centre back/Current club: Crystal Palace

Ian Holloway is quite a forgetful creature. He often forgets referees are human beings who sometimes make mistakes, not robots programmed by the FA to make sure his poor, defenceless little sides lose. He forgot that fans of football clubs like to see their team win, and not go into a League Cup tie hoping for it to be over quickly so he can get back into the office and make signings he forgot to make earlier on in the summer. He also, seemingly, forgot that the 25 man squad system exists as two of his new summer signings have failed to make the cut, along with a player who recently signed a new deal and another who started the play-off final in May. Don’t worry Ian; I’ve done it on ‘Football Manager’ several times.

No game time is better than game time in that ghastly kit

No game time is better than game time in that ghastly kit

The first player of four is former France U21 international defender Florian Marange. In addition to having a rather delicious sounding name, he’s also a very experienced player, racking up 83 Ligue 1 appearances for Bordeaux over nine years with the club.

The left back was clearly rated highly by Holloway, who gave the Frenchman the number 3 shirt, but has strangely opted to leave him out of the 25 man squad. Although a relative unknown to English football fans, including myself, his years of top flight experience suggest he’d make for an excellent addition to Football League sides. Now who’s going to tell him The Valley and Oakwell are just like The Emirates and Old Trafford?

STEPHEN DOBBIE

Age: 30/Position: Centre midfield, winger and striker/Current club: Crystal Palace

Four Championship play-off campaigns, four finals, three promotions; Stephen Dobbie is to play-off campaigns what Herman Hreidarsson is to Premier League relegation. And where Hreidarsson quickly found a move back to the Premier League four out of the five times he suffered relegation, Dobbie doesn’t seem to hang around long in the top flight, often finding himself back in the Championship. In fact, Dobbie has just eight Premier League appearances to his name despite three separate promotions with three different clubs. A strange fact considering he is much, much more than just a talismanic figure.

In hindsight, unveiling Dobbie was probably a waste of time

In hindsight, unveiling Dobbie was probably a waste of time

But yet again it would seem Dobbie won’t be playing Premier League football this season, that’s despite signing for Palace permanently in the summer after helping to guide them into the top flight via the play-offs during a loan spell last season.  You would think by now he deserves a chance.

But Palace’s loss is a Championship clubs gain, with Dobbie earning praise from every club he’s played for. I saw with my own eyes the impact the Scotsman can have last season as he came own with Palace a goal down to Charlton and played a significant part in changing the course of a game that the Eagles went on to win 2-1.

The versatile forwarded minded player can play in a number of positions, but he’s best suited to an attacking midfield role, where his creativity can be best utilised. All manner of Championship clubs will be enquiring into the services of Dobbie.

AARON WILBRAHAM

Age: 33/Position: Striker/Current club: Crystal Palace

Did you hear the one about the club that had Aaron Wilbraham in their starting XI for a Championship play-off final and won it? It’s no joke; it actually happened. With Glenn Murray injured, Wilbraham led the line for the Eagles at Wembley and has even played a part in two of Palace’s first three league games.

Photographic proof of Wilbraham playing a part in a play-off final win

Photographic proof of Wilbraham playing a part in a play-off final win

But, despite some Premier League experience for Norwich City, it’s hard to argue the top flight is Wilbraham’s level. In fact, after not scoring a single goal in 21 games for Palace last season, you’ll be hard pressed to find many fans of Championship clubs who would be totally won over if he were to join their club.

But he does have an excellent record in League One and in League Two, especially for MK Dons, who he scored 50 league goals for in 178 appearances. By no means prolific, the forward is excellent in the air, can hold the ball up well and brings others into the game; attributes that won him praise during a stint in the starting XI for Norwich two seasons ago.

Signing Wilbraham would certainly go down as a punt, but to clubs outside of England’s top two divisions, it’s a punt worth taking.

OWEN GARVAN

Age: 25/Position: Centre midfield/Current club: Crystal Palace

Just in case Holloway thought he hadn’t made enough mistakes in the opening weeks of the season, he decided to make one more, if the rumours are to be believed/Tweets are to be decoded in certain ways.

Garvan made two Premier League appearances for Palace this season before Holloway ditched him

Garvan made two Premier League appearances for Palace this season before Holloway ditched him

‘I’ll be here longer then (sic) he will…trust me’ and ‘It’s amazing what you can find out online these days’ were the Tweets made by Owen Garvan after, it would appear, he found out about being left out of Palace’s 25 man squad via the internet. It also seems he isn’t very impressed with Mr Holloway; trouble is brewing at Selhurst Park.

In the meantime, a Championship club is going to get themselves an excellent player should Garvan go out on loan. 164 games for Ipswich were followed by 76 games for Palace over a three season spell that was marred by injury before adding two Premier League games to his tally this season. The former Republic of Ireland U21 international is an excellent passer of the ball, won’t shy away from a tackle and chips in with the odd goal; a consistent performer in the Championship whose work often goes unnoticed.

Palace often missed the midfielder when he was injured during the last campaign, and he too started the play-off final. Garvan will have little difficulty in gaining a starting spot for whichever Championship side he joins on loan. With the Irishman firmly in the category of ‘point to prove’, he could be the best signing of the six.

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