Eyebrows were raised across west London and beyond on Thursday morning, as Chelsea announced their capture of 38-year-old veteran goalkeeper Robert Green – with the intention being to have the former QPR man as a third choice option, while also combatting an issue that the Blues have struggled with for a while: the Homegrown Player Rule.
In brief, the Homegrown Player Rule dictates that all Premier League sides must register a squad of no more than 25 players, eight of whom have been developed in England. To put it mildly, Chelsea have been far from the poster boys of this initiative in recent seasons, each time inching their way past the required quota with increasing lethargy.
The Blues are by no means the first team to use this as a way to sign more foreign players. Manchester City are considered to be pioneers of the method, bringing in footballing relic Richard Wright to warm the bench in 2012, while Manchester United have utilised the same tactic in their purchase of Stoke City stopper Lee Grant earlier this summer.
The signing of Green will allow Chelsea to sign another foreign player this summer, and this of course is far from a travesty. It goes without saying that the Blues, along with the entire Premier League, would obviously be a far lesser competition were it not for the host of international talents who have graced it throughout the years, and that is very much an understatement.
However, the signing of Rob Green has left a sour taste in the mouth, given the club’s already poor reputation for utilising promising homegrown players. In recent seasons the likes of Nathaniel Chalobah, Patrick van Aanholt and Nathan Ake have all left the club prematurely, after seemingly pointless spells spent out on loan, furthering themselves and not the club.
In signing Green, Chelsea have essentially announced their contempt for the Homegrown Player Rule, and signalled their intent to continue with their policy of acting as a mere puppy farm, churning out player after player for a profit while failing to see any of their homegrown talents ever blossom into fully fledged stars at the club.
When clubs treat the ‘Homegrown’ rule as a box to tick rather than an opportunity to develop young English players, you end up with a 38 year old Rob Green signing for Chelsea
— Daniel Walsh (@DanielWalsh12) July 25, 2018
The club’s reluctance to comply with the spirit of the ruling can be seen in their bizarre purchases of Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater last year.
The two Englishmen joined a Chelsea midfield bursting at the seams, with no hope of breaking into the side. Such desperate signings were unwarranted, with homegrown players such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek raring to go.
The 22-year-old – Chelsea’s best academy product in years – is still not guaranteed to remain at the club, and could go on yet another loan spell before, most likely, become frustrated and deciding to leave. It seems laughable to be in a situation where the club have produced an England international, who is so under-appreciated that he could be allowed to just slip through the net.
Of course, the Blues could yet pull a surprise out the bag, keep RLC and sign a new homegrown talent where they actually need one. Leicester City’s Harry Maguire, for example, is tailor made to fill the gaping hole in Chelsea’s leaky defence, while England’s World Cup hero Jordan Pickford could prove a sterling replacement should Thibaut Courtois join Real Madrid.
Frustratingly though, this seems more a pipe dream than a realistic possibility. Chelsea’s transfer lunacy has been a major problem under the tenure of Marina Granovskaia, and it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. The time has come for Chelsea to take the Homegrown Player Rule seriously, if they are to stand any chance of producing another John Terry.