As the transfer window rolls on and players continue to depart from and arrive at Newcastle, it may be instructive to review the squad and how the team is doing at meeting all of the Premier League squad restrictions. The two most relevant rules are the 25-man squad limit and the Home-Grown Player Rule, both of which are commonly misunderstood. Ask the common man on the street, and they will likely tell you that the Home-Grown Player Rule states that each club must have a certain number of English-born players. In fact, the player's nationality has nothing to do with it, though it is true that most home-grown players will end up being English as a result of the way the system works. As an example, Tim Krul is Dutch - we all saw him save some crucial penalties in the World Cup earlier this month - but he qualifies as home-grown for Newcastle, for reasons we'll see in a moment.
Here are the actual rules:
- Each team is limited to a 25-man squad for all Premier League matches (the rules don't apply to FA or League Cup matches). This squad is named at the end of each transfer window
- Players under 21 do not count toward the 25-man limit. A player's age is determined on January 1 of the year in which the season commences, so in this case, January 1, 2014.
- Of the 25 players named, at least 8 must be considered "home-grown." This means that they have spent at least 36 months affiliated with the FA or Welsh FA prior to their 21st birthday. In other words, they have to have been in the academy (or on the full squad) of any Football League team for 3 years, "irrespective of nationality or age." Tim Krul (mentioned above) joined Newcastle at the age of 17, so he counts as a Home Grown Player.
- If a team does not field 8 home-grown players in their squad, their allotment will be reduced by the number of players they lack. In other words, if they only name 6 home-grown players, they will only be allowed 23 players. An easy way to think about this is that teams are allowed to have up to 17 players over the age of 21 that do not qualify as home-grown.
I've broken down the current Newcastle squad into categories for easy sorting.
21 and over, Home Grown
21 and over, Not Home Grown
Hatem Ben Arfa
Siem De Jong
Under 21, Could Contribute
- As stated above, only the players that were 21 years old and older on 1 January 2014 count toward the 25-man limit. Newcastle currently have 26 such players. It's very easy to see how they could potentially pare that down; in fact, they could afford to add several more players if they so desire. Jonas Gutierrez will almost certainly not wear a Newcastle United shirt this season, given a clause in his contract that would result in a big payday if he does play in the Premier League. Players like Shane Ferguson, Haris Vuckic, Mehdi Abeid, and Sammy Ameobi will be given chances in the preseason, and the ones that don't stick will be sent out on loan. Meanwhile, Alan Pardew continues to shop Hatem Ben Arfa, while rumors of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa's departure persist.
- Assuming no other players are added or subtracted before 1 September, at least one of Ferguson, Vuckic, and Ameobi will need to stick if Newcastle are to carry 25 players. That's not a necessity, of course, but clubs typically try to hit the maximum in case of an injury crisis. The smart money is on Ameobi to stay in Newcastle this season.
- Four players that have a chance of sticking around will turn 21 next season, and it's a pretty decent class: Jak Alnwick, Gael Bigirimana, Curtis Good, and Ayoze Perez. Bigirimana is the standout, and Good has a good chance (I'm sorry) of having some sticking power as well. Perez will need to prove himself, but they wouldn't have invested in him if they didn't see him staying around past 21. Alnwick is an interesting case, as Rob Elliot's contract runs through 2016, and Pardew will not likely want to carry three goalkeepers. He could always go out on loan for a year while Freddie Woodman takes the gloves for the U21 squad. The takeaway is that some potentially tough decisions will need to be made in regard to the backup keeper situation soon. Also, the current crop of 21 year-olds need to prove that they deserve a spot in front of these youngsters.
- Of course, the coming logjam at the bottom of the squad means that Mike Ashley will be free to sell more proven commodities - you didn't think the sudden investment was all about improving the play on the pitch, did you?
- Perhaps the most important takeaway is that Newcastle are okay in terms of home grown players. They can continue to buy imports and be perfectly fine.