I was quite excited to see, last Saturday, that BBC's Football Focus was broadcasting live from my neck of the woods, up on the North-East coast, from the famous Wallsend Boys Club. Wallsend has produced a list of England internationals that would put to shame most modern Premier League academies, including the likes of Peter Beardsley, Alan Shearer, Michael Carrick and Fraser Forster.
I played against Wallsend Boys Club when I was 15, six years ago, in a cup match for my Sunday league team, Marden Juniors. As a goalkeeper, one of my career highlights, was a fingertip save from a rocket shot from their central midfielder, which got applause from their manager. Which I still take to this day to mean I'm England's next number one, even though we lost that game 7-1 and the scouts still continue to overlook my talents.
Back to Football Focus. One of the topics up for discussion was the proliferation of foreign youngsters being brought over to this countries' academies, and thus according to Shearer, Mark Lawrenson, and another WBC alumnus, Alan Thompson, were strangling English footballing development. Thompson in particular was concerned - at least I think he was, he actually sounded bored by the whole thing - by the number of foreign players in the Football League.
Lawrenson was keen to put in the final word on the matter - 'They even have foreigners in the Skrill Premier now', he said, with a solemn nod of his grey bouffant hair.
Three points on this. Firstly, who actually calls it the Skrill Premier? Everyone still calls it the Conference, that's a fact.
Secondly, there are currently, from outside Britain and Ireland, of the 24 teams in that division, 40 foreign players. These include loanees, players from common immigrant backgrounds including Eastern Europe, Nigeria and the Caribbean nations - and so probably count themselves as English - and a whole bunch at Barnet, no doubt brought in by the allure of the now-gone Edgar Davids, a definite anomaly in the English game. Hardly an infestation, Lawro.
Thirdly, and most importantly, this is really not such a bad thing. For my money, foreign players bring a new perspective, new styles and skills, that make the English club scene such a thoroughly enjoyable watch at all levels. We have the best non-league football in the world, the success of the England C team, three times finalists in the International Challenge Trophy, will tell you that much. Would it be so high-quality if it were just made up of English players, English tactics, English ideology? I don't think so.
Everyone can see that the Premier League is a better league twenty years down the line than it was in 1992, when the number of foreign players could be counted on your fingers. The England national team is too - we are going to the World Cup in 2014 after winning our group in Euro 2012; we didn't make the World Cup in 1994 after failing to qualify from our group in Euro 1992. The stats don't lie, at every single footballing level.