Nearly 40 years ago my dear friend, the late, great Jock Stein brought Britain's first European trophy home when his Lisbon Lions beat Inter Milan.

About 20 years ago I was asked to attend a reunion of that famous Celtic team in Scotland. My wife and I were probably the only English people in a packed ballroom!

As the team was led in to the sound of pipes and drums no one could mistake the reason we were there. Even during the meal the highlights of the game repeated again and again on a huge screen. Every time the winning goal went in the cheers got louder.

The amusing thing to me, as I said in my speech, was that the guest of honour on the night was the opposition goalkeeper, who could not speak one word of English.

I watched as he slowly slid under the table after being plied throughout the meal with the usual Scottish wee dram or two. I commented that you would think by the time we got to the coffee he might have known exactly where the ball was going and prevented it entering the net!

The significance of the evening was the huge wave of affection and empathy from the assembled supporters because, as has been quoted so many times over the years, the whole team - as well as the great man himself - all came from 20 miles of Celtic Park.

I thought about this while watching Arsenal's great victory over Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.

Since the days of Di Stefano and company in the all-white strip, Real Madrid have held a special magic in football. And Arsenal, with their terrific history and standing in the world game, ensured this fixture caught everyone's attention.

The thing to me that made it less special was the fact that Arsenal did not field one British born player.

I have been listening, on a lot of sports phone-ins, to many fans saying they hoped Madrid would beat Arsenal, Barcelona would beat Chelsea etc. I honestly don't think that ever would have happened before the influx of foreign players to our game.

When the World Cup is on and the league season is over I always assume that club supporters unite to get behind the national team and that this attitute prevailed for club fixtures in Europe. Certainly, it did in the days when Manchester United followed Jock Stein's example under Sir Matt Busby and then the great Liverpool sides of Shankly, Paisley etc and Brian Clough's teams. We seemed to rule Europe - and all of those great teams were made up of British-born players.

Sure we can admire the skill level of these top-class players as the competitions get to the latter stages. Everyone marvelled at Thierry Henry weaving through to score the decisive winning goal.

But I'm sure I am not alone in thinking we would have all taken an extra bit of enjoyment had it been a Wayne Rooney or Michael Owen, backed by ten other British-born players who we had watched progress through our club's youth systems.

The whole point now of qualifying and playing in these huge competitions is purely and simply about extra revenue for the clubs to enable them to buy up and pay the salaries of the best players in the world.

Television covers every game, from the Second Division in England all the way through now, so that also takes a little away.

Seeing Eto'o and Ronaldinho perform is nothing new any more. Anyone paying the subscription can click on every weekend and watch them in their own domestic league.

In a way I suppose that is the one thing left which makes the World Cup as good as it used to be - Brazil are still a mystery team, along with Uruguay, Argentina etc, as we don't tend to see them play international games more than once every four years, although I suppose you can see their club football now if you have the right channel.

I am sure that, as ever, there will still be some young South American player we haven't heard about who will emerge in this year's competition in Germany.

But the younger supporters will possibly know of him anyway.

In our day, when Pele burst on the scene in the first of his five World Cup finals, he was a new name to be talked about around the whole world. Other magical players, such as Socrates, also captured the imagination and, even though those who were lucky enough to have a TV set probably watched in black and white, they provided young supporters with new heroes to try to emulate.

We can't stop progress but it saddens me to think success now is often measured in terms of viewing figures, ticket prices, gate money and huge salaries and bonuses.