Greg Dyke insisted he was not “declaring war” on the Premier League.
Indeed, by admitting his own role as the Dr Frankenstein who helped create the monster whose very success threatens the status of the national team, the new FA chairman offered an olive branch.
Yet while Dyke’s to prevent English football falling into the abyss was absolutely right, agreeing on a cure will be far, far tougher.
Three decades ago, of course, Dyke, saved breakfast television station TV-am.
But it will take more than Roland Rat to save English football; more than a puppet to make the clubs put the national interest in front of self-interest.
Speaking at the launch of Vauxhall’s new four-year deal to back the England team, Dyke’s “state of the footballing nation” address pulled no punches.
Former BBC director general Dyke reeled off a series of “alarming” statistics to underline the scale of the issue:
When the Premier League was formed, in 1992, English players made up 69 per cent of starting line-ups. Last season, that was down to 32 per cent.
Only 35 English players under 21 made an appearance in the Premier League last term.
Despite a record summer transfer spend of £630million, less than a quarter of the players signed during the transfer window were English.
England has barely 1100 “A” standard coaches, compared to 12,720 in Spain and 5,500 in Germany.
At “Pro Licence” level, the 203 coaches pales into insignificance set against Spain’s 2,140.
Dyke recalled: “I was the host of the original dinner when the five clubs decided to break away and set up The FA Premier League in the early 1990s.
“No-one could have predicted the League would be such a massive success and become the most successful league in the world.
“At that famous dinner, the participants genuinely thought a strong Premier League attracting the best players from around the world would help create a stronger England team. The FA said it was the main reason they sanctioned the breakaway league.
“What none of us at that dinner could have foreseen was that, 20 years later, we would end up with a league largely owned by foreign owners, managed by foreign managers and played by foreign players.
“As a result, it could be argued that the England set-up has been weakened, rather than strengthened, by the creation of the Premier League.
“Often the toughest challenge is implementing ideas for change, particularly when the tanker needs turning.
“And English football, I think, is a tanker which needs turning.”
Dyke’s maiden address was, for all his attempts to deny it – and his lauding of the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan – both inflammatory and explosive.
Even though new Premier League chairman Anthony Fry agreed to join the investigative commission which will start work by the end of the month, the clubs are unlikely to give ground.
League sources insist the idea of quotas is a dead duck because of European Law, while already the swift timetable envisaged by Dyke – with a report, which he wants to be binding on all parties early next year – was being described as “tight”.
The clubs will not be bounced into agreeing with the terms of reference – likely to be set before them next Thursday – and Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has already dismissed Dyke’s primary argument that more England players are essential.
Last month, pressed over the issue, Scudamore said: “We go through this data far too much. Whether it is 37%, 42%, 51%, it doesn’t make any difference.
“Numbers is always the debate, but it’s the wrong debate.
“Going from 200 to 300 – what is the point? We are not interested in the 200th or 300th best player qualified to play for England, just how good they are.”
A divide which, it seems, Dyke will find hard to bridge.
As he conceded: “It is crucial that English football finds a solution without undermining the undoubted success of the Premier League.
“We don’t want to kill the golden goose in the search of the golden egg but we do have to do something if the English team is to prosper in the future.
“If not we will be letting down generations of English kids, letting down the England fans who turn up in their thousands at Wembley or watch the England team in their millions on television.
“They want . I believe my job, as chairman of the FA, is to ensure that the structures are in place to give future England teams the best possible chance of achieving success, That is what I intend to do.”
The road to Hell, though, is paved with good intentions.
And Dyke’s invocation of Dante’s Inferno may not be enough to bring the clubs on board.
It is a huge challenge.
At least he has not ducked it.