The Jason De Vos column

ALTHOUGH it is no secret that the top players earn astronomical amounts of money it is actually getting harder for many young players wanting to make a living from the game.

ALTHOUGH it is no secret that the top players earn astronomical amounts of money it is actually getting harder for many young players wanting to make a living from the game.

Many of us senior players used to say how great it would be to be 18 again starting out but the truth is now I'm not so sure.

Another blow for the young players is the changing of the retirement age for footballers.

All players who join the PFA used to have a special relationship with the taxman where they were allowed to start collecting their pension at the age of 35 but from April 1, that will now be aged 55.

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That decision has huge ramifications for players starting out on their career, although in a way it will place even more emphasis on ensuring they have a career to fall back on.

Of course all young players start out all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed looking for a wonderful career in the game - but it doesn't always work out that way. The PFA will tell you that 75% of players who start out in the professional game don't make it.

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I look at Wigan as an example and can see that from the time I was there until now only one player, Leighton Baines, has established himself in the first team.

So think about how many players in those years have not made it.

Ipswich Town are special in terms of the number of young players making the step up into the first team but they are the rare exception.

Far too many players don't plan for a life out of the game and at least by moving the pension age, they will be forced into making other plans because they could be out of the game for 20-25 years or so before than can now pick up their pension.

ARSENAL face a very hard task in getting to the Champions' League semi-finals. Although they have not had the best of seasons in the Premiership they have done very well to get as far as they have in Europe but my feeling is that Juventus will be too strong.

All three of the remaining Italian sides are good teams but for me Barcelona are head and shoulders above the rest.

I saw the comments made by Alan Pardew regarding Arsenal not really being a British team because of all the foreign players but I doubt the fans see it that way.

They support the team and while I'm sure they would like to see English players in there you are not going to tell me that they are bothered that Thierry Henry is not British.

Fans pay to be entertained by the best possible players and the team. I'm sure Ipswich supporters are not worried that Shane Supple or Owen Garvan are Irish.

What I would agree with Alan Pardew on is that young English players are overpriced compared to what is available on the continent.

Yet he paid £7million for Dean Ashton, which I thought was an exorbitant price compared to how much Michael Owen cost Real Madrid when he joined from Liverpool.

I'M in complete agreement with Rio Ferdinand, who has said that UEFA, and other bodies, are not doing enough to combat racism in football.

A lot more can be done and the punishments that have been handed out to people like Luis Aragones, the Spanish manager who racially abused Thierry Henry, and the Real Zaragoza fans who taunted Samuel Eto'o, are a complete joke.

Financial penalties like those handed out - it meant about 50p a racist - are not enough and don't send out a strong enough message.

I support Rio's suggestion that clubs need to be docked points or in extreme cases relegate clubs from domestic leagues or even ban them from competitions.

I have long backed the Show Racism The Red Card campaign and a lot of good work has been done to attack racism but support has to come from the very top and the governing bodies have to step up to the plate and hand out proper punishments.

THANKS once again for all your e-mails, which I always try to reply to through my column, but if yours don't get mentioned, I still appreciate being sent them but it is not always appropriate to reply on this page.

Mark Leather asked why FIFA introduce new rules which, like the six-second goalkeeper kicking out rule, sometimes fade away.

Mark thought that strikers were supposed to get the benefit in an offside decision and he is right. As I understand it the lineman has to see daylight between attacker and defender for it to be offside but that is so open to different interpretation. As a defender I would like to see it set in stone and then there can be no mistakes.

Meanwhile, Cyril Mann wants to know why a lot of teams insist on wearing their change strip even when the shirts don't clash, and suspects it is down to commercial pressure.

Really I should leave this one to our kit man Paul Elmer who knows all there is to know about these things.

I would hazard a guess and say it is probably more to do with shirts or socks clashing and that means the whole kit is changed. Mind you it can have odd repercussions as we found out at Leicester when our shorts didn't match the shirts and we certainly would not have won any fashion contests.

ONCE again the need for video evidence during a game was highlighted when Richard Naylor was wrongly sent off at Preston.

I said last week that we should have two referees as they do in hockey, which Peter Webb later heard on BBC Canada news, which was cool, because it would make the job easier for officials.

It would end the sort of frustration we suffered at Preston because the sending-off ruined the game as a spectacle.

It was never a goal-scoring opportunity and Brett Ormerod lost control and was looking for a foul by going across Bam Bam.

Then later Danny Haynes gets kicked in the chest and is booked for dissent because he was upset.

Yet our guys are getting kicked up one side and down the other and nothing happens. It was a nonsense and all we ask from referees is consistency.

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