Tony Pulis was at my wedding. The then-Portsmouth manager had kindly recorded a surprise video message wishing us good luck in our marriage and asked if we could supply him with a few decent offspring to play up front for Pompey in the future.
It was a classy touch from a boss who has since become one of the most respected voices in the game.
His time at Portsmouth was pretty short and rather non-descript, but subsequent achievements at Stoke City, Crystal Palace and now West Bromwich Albion have elevated his standing within English football.
When Pulis talks, he is usually worth listening to. Be it post-match interviews or on football in general, the guy knows what he is talking about.
So when he was asked to comment on Greg Dyke’s proposals to limit the number of foreign players in the Premier League, it was no surprise that Pulis hit the nail squarely on the head in his reply.
Football Association chairman Dyke believes the minimum number of home-grown players in a club’s first-team squad of 25 should increase from eight to 12.
He feels young talent from these shores is being squeezed out by overseas imports and says the England national side is suffering as a result.
Pulis was quick to counter the argument: “I think the Premier League is not an English League, it is a world league and we have got to produce English players who are as good as any players from abroad. That is what people should be aspiring to.”
Dyke’s idea has, this week, received backing from such heavyweights as Kevin Keegan, Graham Taylor, Glenn Hoddle, Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren who wrote a joint letter stating: “Failure to do so risks England falling further behind the leading football nations and will only make it harder to end the long wait to win the World Cup.”
The nation’s footballing public is as torn on the subject as Pulis and the ex-England quintet.
Yes, fans are desperate to see an England side win major tournaments, but are they desperate enough for the flip side to mean their clubs lose their star foreign imports?
As failed England managers, you would expect the likes of Eriksson, Hoddle, Keegan and McClaren to vote in favour of such changes, but Pulis is right in what he says. By removing better players from abroad, and thus making it easier for our young players, are we not weakening the structure of development?
The likes of Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Ross Barkley have all had to battle their way through the ranks into their respective first teams, and all three have big England futures ahead of them. Their screening process has been tough and they have been developed as a result.
Our Under-21s beat Germany this week with a team of young hopefuls fighting that same fight at their clubs – they are and will be stronger for it.
Nobody will thank Mr Dyke if all his plan does is make it easier for our younger players to play in the Premier League, especially if they are not actually good enough.
“No disrespect to Greg, but he sometimes says things that football people would not agree with,” added Pulis.
Well said, Tony.