Wrightie's rant gets ministerial approval
In the spirit of reconciliation between the BBC and News Corp (and to show James Murdoch not everything we do online is "chilling") I would like to draw your attention to a recent advertisement for The Sun's soaraway salon of soccer scribes, Harry Redknapp, Terry Venables and Ian Wright.
The billboard in question was for Wrightie and it was situated near West Ham's training ground in Chadwell Heath.
Above a toothy shot of the former Arsenal and England centre forward, a caption in quote marks said something about too many mediocre foreigners in the Premier League holding back young domestic talent: good, knock-about, back-of-cab stuff.
You might have missed it but Carlton Cole didn't and it got him thinking. "I can relate to that," the Hammers striker told me, which is hardly surprising given his stop-start progress to Premier League stardom and Fabio Capello's England squad.
Starved of first-team opportunities at Chelsea, the club that nurtured his talent, and unable to settle at any of the clubs he was loaned to, a stalled Cole (pictured right) moved to Upton Park in 2006.
He didn't pull up any trees there at first either but in the last 18 months the south Londoner, now 25, has started to deliver on the potential the ex-Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri described when he said: "I've never coached a young player like Carlton - he's fantastic and has a very big future at Chelsea."
He was half right.
But having tried to patch up one row with a major player in British football, I should avoid starting a new one with another: Cole was not suggesting Roman Abramovich's millions were being wasted on mediocre foreigners at Chelsea.
"I'm thinking more about some of my mates who didn't make it at other clubs, they did have average foreign players ahead of them," he clarified.
"I think Ian Wright is making a big statement there and I hope clubs realise that sometimes it's cheaper not to bring in a player from abroad - a quick fix - but to develop one of your own instead."
He's right, of course, but it's easier said than done when Premier League survival is guaranteed millions, the continued employment of hundreds of staff and the feel-good exposure of playing in the world's most popular football league.
Relegation, on the other hand, is, well, rubbish.
But that doesn't make Wright's (hardly original) observation and Cole's shining example any less compelling, particularly in the wake of last week's Her Majesty's Government v Football Association ding-dong.
Media attention has focused on the government's frustration with football's governing body for failing to implement the recommendations made by leading civil servant Lord Burns in 2005.
The fact those recommendations were aimed at improving the FA's executive structure probably explains why Cole and the two other Premier League stars I spoke to at a Prince's Trust youth forum in London last week, Spurs striker Jermain Defoe and West Ham midfielder Mark Noble, knew nothing about them.
Having read Burns' review, I can't blame them.
But they had plenty to say about another issue Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe flagged up in his letter to FA boss Lord Triesman (pictured right) and his counterparts at the Football League and Premier League, English football's patchy record on youth development - the same point Wright was making.
For Noble, the epitome of a local boy done good, it is all about opportunity: he got it at West Ham, while counterparts at more successful clubs haven't. That is why he is pleased with recent moves to introduce quotas for home-grown players in the English leagues.
Sutcliffe also praised these initiatives but wondered if more could be done.
Among the measures he proposed for discussion are a transfer ban for under-18s (a move being talked about by the governing bodies of European and world football, and grumbled about by every leading English club), bonus payments to clubs for fielding English-qualified players and relaxing restrictions on player loans.
It is a shame most attention has centred on whether the government really would withhold its investment in grassroots football just to get two non-executive directors on the FA board or not, when Sutcliffe had reasonable questions to ask about another forgotten football review, Rugby Football League boss Richard Lewis's look at youth development.
It is two years since his recommendations were announced - harmonising standards across the leagues, more emphasis on coaching, more age-specific work and so on - but evidence of actual change is hard to identify.
In the meantime the trends that prompted the review have continued: English clubs are using more and more foreign players, the leading clubs in particular, and the number of fully-fledged footballers to emerge from their youth set-up's remains disappointing (which partly explains why the likes of Chelsea have got themselves in trouble for their global trawl for young talent).
Properly implementing the Burns review on governance would be a welcome step for the FA. Properly implementing the Lewis review is essential for the future health of English football - it probably would not hurt the prospects of the other Home Nations and Ireland either.
There is another pressing piece of business Sutcliffe attempted to remind everybody of and that is the National Football Centre at Burton (pictured above). Remember that?
The FA gave England's answer to Clairefontaine/Coverciano the green light 15 months ago (for at least the third time in eight years) but it would take the intervention of Bagpuss's mice, the Ground Force crew and the pharaohs' foremen to get the project up and running by 2010, what with there being little more than 350 acres of Staffordshire countryside behind that expensive fence.
The sheer waste of this farcical situation is particularly galling when I recall what Defoe said was the moment he knew he would make it as a footballer, the day he found out he had won a place at the FA's School of Excellence at Lilleshall. If Burton helps to produce half the number of players Lilleshall did before it was shut down in 1999 it will be cheap at £80m.
Now it is unlikely that a Premier League footballer will ever credit a sports minister with making a "big statement" about the game - Sutcliffe has no medals or billboards - but he is asking the right questions. Football's guardians would do well to address them or the prospect of finding three young English Premier League footballers to talk to a group of young Londoners about career development could become considerably more difficult.