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By ESPN Staff

'Multi-cultural' Pardew defends Gunners remarks

Alan Pardew has vowed to continue speaking his mind even though recent criticism of Arsenal's reliance on foreign players provoked accusations of 'racism'.

Pardew claimed 'we are losing the soul of English football' after the Gunners booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals without having a single British player in their starting line-up.

The West Ham manager's comments provoked an angry retort from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who declared the outburst encouraged racism, and Pardew issued his response after Saturday's 4-1 defeat by Bolton.

He denied his outburst was xenophobic, instead reflecting his passion for the British game, and today he mounted a further defence by pointing to his record in signing foreign players.

'In light of the media coverage surrounding my recent comments, I would like to make one or two things clear,' read a statement on the club's official website.

'When I said it was disappointing that there were no British players in the Arsenal team that went through to the last eight in the Champions League, I was not being racist or xenophobic, as Arsene Wenger has suggested.

'A manager who is married to a Swede and has signed players from Ireland, Wales, Argentina, Israel and France, while giving trials to players from Japan and Poland, cannot be called racist.

'Our multi-cultural approach to our squad is something I'm proud of. But I care passionately about our game and will always give my views honestly and from the heart.'

Pardew insists his comments were not intended to detract from Arsenal's stunning triumph over Real Madrid and hopes the Gunners march to Champions League glory.

However, he feels that all Barclays Premiership clubs should have a backbone of home-grown players in order to safeguard the future of the British game and saluted Chelsea's example.

'My view is that if we are to have strong British national sides - and success at that level boosts crowds and revenue in our domestic leagues - then we need to have young British players coming through,' he said.

'I made it clear at our press conference last week that I'm a great admirer of Arsene Wenger and what he has achieved, and in no way was I belittling their great result.

'Indeed, they have my support and I hope they go on to win the Champions League. But I maintain we need to protect our young talent for the greater good.

'It is a view I know is held by the Professional Footballers Association, other managers and indeed FIFA, who are considering introducing a quota system.

'Jose Mourinho at Chelsea has said he will build success at Stamford Bridge with a backbone of English players.

'If ever I were to manage in Portugal, I would insist the team had a fair share of home-born talent from that country.'