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The Bluebirds are flying high at the moment (despite a derby day defeat) but what is happening to the rest of Welsh football? And more to the point, why is it that a lot of people don’t care?

The state of the Welsh international team is at an all-time low and it isn’t going to get better anytime soon, even if the best manager in the world takes over. There simply isn’t the resources here on or off the pitch, to field a decent international side, especially when players like Craig Bellamy pull out after successfully playing for City on the weekend before. To play for one’s international side should be the pinnacle of an international career so why is not treated as such?

Right now, we are falling behind many, most or perhaps all international sports in Wales in regards to our international sides, and I place the blame solely on the Premier League and the money that its prepared to pay out!

Why make such an outlandish comment, you may ask? It’s theorised to be as simple as this – the Premier League is now full of players from all around the world. Gone as the days where a top league side would have one or two foreign players. That’s why in the 1970s and 1980s we all knew of players like Ossie Ardiles of Spurs, Bruce Grobbelaar of Liverpool or Jesper Olsen of Manchester United. Sure, there were a few more, but not many of them. Most top league sides were full of British players, be it Scottish, Irish (north and south), English or Welsh.

But why is this important? Well, if Johnny Foreigner is playing at almost 1 to 11, where are the British players going? Mainly they’re off to non-Premier League sides, with the English players not even being considered for international selection (think Jay Bothroyd here) and the Welsh having far less experience when we take on international sides.

Let’s face it - the last three Welsh international games have been a disgrace. We lack passion, leadership and the aforementioned experience and we’re turning into more of a joke than we were before. Someone commented that we’ve gone from almost qualifying to almost winning to almost scoring to almost having a chance, and that’s not far off the truth.

So where are we, as Wales, going wrong? At under 16 level recently, we hammered England 4-0 with seven of the starting side and one substitute coming from Cardiff City. This shows that the development is there and it would be nice to think that those eight will all progress to the City first team and play for the Wales senior side within five years, but we know, with all due respect to the youngsters, that this is probably not going to happen.

We, as in Cardiff City, will be signing another cracking Englishman or other foreigner, someone like Bothroyd, Chopra or Olofinjana, who the crowd will love and hail as a hero, and that’s if we’re not in the Premier League. If we are in the elite, then we’ll have 50% or more foreign players in the side and the Welsh will be lucky to get a look in.

Now that might be “okay” if we were an English club – there are 20 of them at the top level alone so they should have plenty of players ready to try to get in the England side and are probably even learning a lot from your Fernando Torres’ of this world. In Wales, as I’m sure everyone knows, we have two sides in the Championship in us and Swansea, and two sides looking to get back into the Football League and doing alright in the Blue Square Premier in Wrexham and Newport. After that, it’s park football time. We can only bring in a maximum of 44 Welsh born regulars to choose from to play at one time for our professional clubs and we’re not doing even half that. It’s not good enough to try and select a so-called top level international side.

So where do we turn to? The answer has been relying more and more on the grandparent rule for our international players. In the European Championships qualifying game at the Cardiff City Stadium against Bulgaria, eight of the 18-man squad were born in Wales. This again might be “okay” if the ten were top level players but they weren’t. We are looking more and more at grandparent rule players from lower league clubs! How is this helping Wales when they’ve not been brought up with the Gwlad, may not have the passion and, more importantly, don’t know the national anthem.

This is where we start comparing it to the other footballing codes. In rugby union, Warren Gatland recently stated that he would only pick players from Welsh clubs, and there’s only four of them! What kind of luxury is that? He says that it shows devotion to our country which is admirable and he believes that his sport can cope with that. I don’t know if they’re all Welsh born or if some qualify through residency but you can be certain it’s mainly the former.

It’s when you compare us to Rugby League that it gets more interesting. When Wales won the European Cup in October, seven of the 17-man squad were born in Wales, a similar statistic to the football. However, out of the remaining ten, a further six are or have played club Rugby League in Wales (plus the Welsh coaches, John Dixon now Iestyn Harris, makes sure that they all know “Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” believing it’s important to get that pride it before starting a game).

But it’s not just about singing and passion. The Rugby League clubs are not afraid to bring the youngsters through. Sure, the Crusaders, who play in Super League, are still mainly reliant on foreigners but have still fielded four or five Welsh internationals in a lot of their games. There is just one other professional club in Wales in South Wales Scorpions, who play in Championship 1 which is like our League One in football. From that squad of 30 players in 2010, 24 were born in Wales and a further two were Welsh qualified, and both played for Wales this autumn.

So is football even below Rugby League when it comes to the development here in Wales? When it comes to crowds or coverage or even money, absolutely not, but that’s because the papers and TV report on every move and arse-scratch that happens at either the Cardiff City or Liberty Stadiums. We all know when the football and rugby union is on, even if you’re not a big fan, we don’t when it comes to the 13-man game. But when was the last time that the Welsh football side did anything decent? The under 21s were recently cheated out of a play-off place for European finals, but that’s about it! If Rugby League had as much publicity as football, then they would be walking over the 11-man game at just about every level.

Right now, City are going to plod on and go for promotion to the Premier League, which would be fantastic for the club and for the city of Cardiff as a whole, but would it be good for us - the nation of Wales? I’d like to say that I think it would bring more players wanting to play football and more Welsh youngsters being developed in the lower ranks but I think that’s happening already. Right now, many Welsh-born footballers have nowhere to go when they turn 21 and are too old for the academy, and are not improving or are being lost to the game as a result. Players like Craig Bellamy and Darcy Blake are one-offs – is that really how it should be?

But as long as Cardiff City are doing well and are pushing for the Premier League, do we really care how many are Welsh? And is it right that we should think in that way?

Written for the next issue of "Watch the Bluebirds Fly" - Cardiff City's number 1 supporters magazine.

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