Halve pro salaries to nurture grassroots - Johnston

Liverpool legend Craig Johnston has launched an impassioned plea to Premier League clubs to halve players' salaries and use the money to invest more in grassroots football.

The Australian, who won five league titles at Anfield during the 1980s, says that Premier League chairman are "selling their soul" and that players are "living in La La Land" and are being paid "far too much money".

Speaking on talkSPORT radio last week, Johnston said: "Why should footballers be recession proof? They have been living a bubble for too long. Why is everybody else in the country suffering? Why are the banks going under? Why are countries defaulting on their debt?

"Footballers have been living in La-La-Land with all this money.  This isn’t like shock, horror. This is the start of the end, unless somebody wakes up and understands that footballers are getting paid too much money in this country.

"If you halved the players wages and gave that half into the community and said ‘this is for grassroots and youth development’ to develop English players, that’s where the game is. That’s long-termism.

"But everybody is [about] short-termism. Everybody is money, money, money. Someone has to stand up and say ‘hey, the players don’t need that much money’. Footballers don’t need three Ferraris."

Johnston moved to England from Australia as a teenager and made his career within English football. But, having fallen in love with the game in his adopted country, he believes that there is a serious problem with the game.

"I think there’s a problem from top to bottom and everybody ignores grassroots. That’s where the future of your game is. It’s [about] developing your players and giving them a systematic approach to getting better on a daily basis."

The 1986 Double winner acknowledged that the Premier League invest millions into grassroots football but claims this is some way short of what is required.

"Millions is not enough.  It should be half of the players wages. I’m saying 50 percent and do you know why?  Because nobody else is talking any common sense.

"I’m Australian. I shouldn’t be as upset as I am.  You Brits should be taking control of what you’ve got rather than living for short-termism. This is your game.

Johnston, who was speaking to talkSPORT's Richard Keys and Andy Gray, believes that "mercenary footballers" from overseas are taking money out of the English game and investing in their own countries rather than in the grassroots game in this country.

"You shouldn’t ignore other countries," he concedes, "but footballers will be OK abroad.  The problem is the footballers here.  What is happening at grassroots? Where is all the great new talent coming through? The answer is it’s not."

Johnston, who is also famed for inventing the Predator boot, was unequivocal in his message for the powers that be.

"Yes I’m talking to the people at the Premier League and the FA," he said.

"Somebody has got to get together the chairmen and say ‘enough is enough’. The footballers are getting paid far too much money and half of that money needs to go back into the communities of the clubs that represent the Premier League.

"You’re selling your soul. You’re selling your soul."

"The clubs should get together. Someone like David Dein who is independent should get the 20 chairmen in a room and they should make a deal.

"Banks are going under. Countries are going under. How are footballers recession proof?  The clubs aren’t recession proof. Name me three clubs that are making money. Nobody is making money.  It’s the community – the club is the community.

"Mercenary footballers will come and go from abroad, but the club remains there so why doesn’t the club have a right to make money?

"Players are getting too much money. The communities are getting nothing.  Sort it out.

"And chairmen: wake up to yourselves. Get together, sit down in a room. [Re-invest] 50 percent of the wages and if you don’t you’re all cowards because your clubs are going to go bankrupt. How about that?"

In a candid interview Johnston tells his football story, from leaving Australia as a child to becoming a part of Anfield folklore... with plenty more in between!

Listen to the interview in full at talkSPORT.co.uk.

Have your say!

What do you think about Craig Johnston's comments?  Should Premier League clubs pay their stars less money and invest more in the grassroots game?  Would that damage the value of the Premier League? Or should the future of the English game come first?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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