Paul Parker

The language barrier

Paul Parker

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It was interesting to see Portsmouth's foreign players have been given language lessons to cope with life in English football.

I can understand why some of them would need help in understanding what Harry Redknapp is saying to them - I played under a gruff Scotsman for many years and some of the overseas players at Manchester United had a bit of trouble understanding what Alex Ferguson was talking about.

Certainly Andrei Kanchelskis had real difficulties with English. He was terrible, but he picked up bits and pieces here and there and always had a interpreter on hand to lend support if needed.

Sometimes the boss would try to help them out by trying to speak their language. I remember him occasionally attempting to speak French to Eric Cantona, although his grasp of French was not quite as good as Eric's English and soon enough he'd have to revert back.

Fergie's French wasn't quite as bad as Steve McClaren's Dutch, but nevertheless sometimes it made you cringe. But football is an international language and their shortcomings in English certainly didn't hamper my old team-mates on the pitch.

More often than not, all that is needed are a few gestures to get the basics. The finer details were perhaps lost, but some of the players I worked with were talented enough not to let the language barrier get in the way of the performances.

Once you develop an understanding with a player on the pitch everything comes quite naturally and there is not much need to speak anything more than the basics.

Of course some foreigners - usually Scandinavians - are able to pick up the language immediately. Whilst Andrei was probably the worst I've ever played with, Peter Schmeichel was undoubtedly the best.

Sometimes you'd forget he was Danish, such was the high standard of his English. He even managed to pick up a Mancunian accent, much in the same way Jan Molby adopted a Scouse accent.

I'm not sure how I would have got on if I'd gone abroad. My old United team-mates Paul Ince and David Beckham had a crack at Inter Milan and Real Madrid. They both did pretty well on the football side, although I'm not sure if either of them truly mastered the language.

I only speak Cockney, so I doubt I'd have too many problems with Redknapp, but what is happening at Portsmouth is understandable.

In my day, the foreign players were usually expected to get on with it - the boss's dalliances with French aside. But now with so many foreign players at top flight - and even Championship - clubs, it has become necessary.

More than anything, it would be impractical to have 15 different interpreters on the training ground!

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