Sport Comment: Football must not brush off Dyke’s plan B

John Inverdale
A QUARTER of a century ago, Silvio Berlusconi gave an interview as AC Milan supremo to a long-since defunct satellite TV company in this country, in which he predicted the creation of a European Super League with global television coverage that would give the clubs involved wealth beyond measure.

Presenting that programme, I asked the studio guests what they thought of the prospect. The general view was that it was a nonsensical flight of fancy.

Football doesn’t like visionaries. It is perversely, one of the most conservative of all sports (see goal-line technology) which is why Greg Dyke’s idea of the B team league has been widely dismissed.

However, watching Manchester City win the title yesterday with the dominant figures in their side, bar Joe Hart, all foreign nationals, prompted an idle flight of fancy of watching the championship being won in 25 years’ time by a side composed of almost entirely English players with only the occasional overseas expertise.

Less exotic perhaps than these days of the global game, but from the perspective of the national team, imperative if that World Cup triumph of 48 years ago is ever to be repeated.

On their Saturday afternoon off before yesterday’s final Premier League chapter, some of football’s mandarins may have chosen to watch Harlequins’ dramatic victory over Bath to secure a place in rugby’s premiership semi-finals. Let’s hope it struck a chord with a few that wherever you looked in the Quins side were young aspiring and established English international players, most of whom in their embryonic days, were farmed out to learn their trade in the Championship and National League One – a variation on the Dyke theory.

So while the FA blueprint for the future may not be perfect, it is surely worth serious debate rather than instant and rather arrogant ridicule from pundits and professionals. Because wouldn’t it be great if the World Cup squad being announced today were heading to Brazil next month as one of the tournament favourites, instead of potential also-rans?