Huddersfield Town legend Andy Booth's column: Serbia, Liverpool and why we need more homegrown players

GIVEN events in Serbia last week, it’s fitting that we marked the One Game, One Community initiative when we played Wolves on Saturday.

GIVEN events in Serbia last week, it’s fitting that we marked the One Game, One Community initiative when we played Wolves on Saturday.

Kick it Out, who work throughout the football, educational and community sectors to confront racism and encourage inclusion, are behind the campaign, and all clubs have supported it.

Sean Scannell and our captain Peter Clarke are Town ambassadors for One Game, One Community, and have been out and about spreading the message that the game is for everyone, regardless of race, colour or creed.

Nobody is pretending that the problem has completely gone away in our country, and there have, of course, been recent very high-profile cases involving Chelsea’s John Terry and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.

But the situation is certainly nowhere near as bad as it was 30 or 40 years ago, and I can honestly say that during my career, I never heard any racial abuse against a fellow player.

There certainly is a bigger problem elsewhere in Europe, and it’s not just confined to the eastern countries, like Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria, all of whom have been punished after racial abuse by fans.

It’s also happened in Spain and Italy, with Lazio last week fined £32,500 by UEFA after their supporters abused Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend during a Europa League game at White Hart Lane.

But you have to say that in the overall scheme of things, a £32,500 fine is pretty meaningless.

It’s been well documented that Nicklas Bendtner was fined much more for exposing his bookmaker- sponsored undies at Euro 2012.

Thankfully, fears of problems in Poland and Ukraine during that tournament failed to materialise.

But the situation the England Under 21s faced in Serbia was very unpleasant and very worrying.

There were two major issues – the racist abuse and the clashes between the two sets of players and coaching teams at the end of the game.

It certainly looked like England were on the receiving end in both, and in my book, the claims by the Serbian FA trying to blame Danny Rose and England for the problems make the whole thing even worse.

The focus is now firmly on UEFA. To me, banning Serbia for a meaningful period of time is the only option, but will it happen?

I CAN remember the game as if it was yesterday ... a winter afternoon just before Christmas, a packed, noisy stadium and for me, a great scoreline, Liverpool 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1.

It was my first season at Wednesday and my first visit to Anfield, and while I didn’t score (that honour went to Guy Whittingham) we all came off that famous pitch having contributed to a great performance which even some of the home fans applauded.

Des Walker was immense that day, and while Liverpool included the likes of Jason McAteer, Mark Wright, Robbie Fowler and John Barnes, the real key to our success was in clamping firmly down on Steve McManaman (right), who had been in top form and usually made Liverpool tick.

For me, it’s great news that Liverpool have decided to re-develop Anfield rather than build a new stadium, however close it was going to be.

We can all see the arguments for starting from scratch, and even for clubs in the same city to share, as they do in Genoa, Milan and Rome.

But like their arch-rivals Manchester United and Old Trafford, Liverpool are a special club steeped in history and Anfield is a special stadium steeped in history, and I believe a strong Liverpool can only help make the English game more healthy.

There’s no doubt both the club and the ground have fallen well behind others at the top of the Premier League, but by increasing the size of their stadium, Liverpool will open up new income streams.

IN THE unusual circumstances, I didn’t think England’s draw in Poland was as bad a result as some made out.

I expect us to be in Brazil in 2014, but I don’t think we have a chance of winning the World Cup.

We’ve heard a lot about the opening of St George’s Park, the FA’s state-of-the-art new training facility at Burton-upon-Trent.

However you can have the fanciest training pitches going, but you have to have the right players on them and coach them in a way that will bring results.

We’ve trailed behind other countries for too long, and as we play catch-up, they are developing new systems and new players.

We have a great domestic league, but not enough home-grown players competing in it to produce a really strong national team.

 

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