The Scottish, Welsh and Irish Football Associations have denied claims from the British Olympic Association (BOA) that an “historic agreement” for a Great Britain Olympic football side was now in place. The BOA said this “historic agreement” had been reached with the English Football Association over fielding teams at the 2012 Games.
But a collective statement from the other nations – the Scots, Welsh and Irish who have fought vigorously to keep their footballing identities – denied this was the case. And so they should. But not because of the reasons that they have said already claimed.
But because…….who exactly from Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland would get a game?? This is clearly a project being pushed by the British Olympic Association and the English FA. But the question is…Why?
The criteria for the Olympic Games will see the men’s squads being made up of 18 players – 15 under-23s and three ‘open age’ players.
Although not currently firing on all cylinders, England’s talent pool continuously consists of superstars such as Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and John Terry.
Start with the goalkeepers and use the current squads of each country as an example of the sort of talent they will have at their disposal.
England can call on the likes of Joe Hart, and despite goalkeeper being far from their strongest position, the only other candidates from the other Home Nations for me would be someone of the calibre of Scotland’s Allan McGregor or Craig Gordon to challenge him.
In defence, England can call on the likes of Glen Johnson at right back, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand at centre half and Ashley Cole at left back. For every Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand and Cole read Martin Kelly, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill and Keiron Gibbs. Who, from the other nations, could challenge that group, never mind displace them, in the GB side? Scotland’s most accomplished defender just now is arguably Alan Hutton – one of the best full backs the Scots have produced in years. But he is struggling for a game at Tottenham so it doesn’t fill you with confidence that another Hutton is just around the corner. Northern Ireland have the likes of Craig Cathcart – a tough, tackling centre back at Blackpool – and Johnny Evans. But none of those are in the mould of John Terry – and it is unlikely that Northern Ireland will find a Terry in time for the Olympics.
In midfield, you have your greatest argument to include players in the GB side who weren’t born in England – and one of them isn’t Charlie Adam, the Scottish Pele.
Gareth Bale, the Welsh wonder-kid who roared his way past full-back after full-back last season, and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsay would, for me, be the only inclusions in the side. But even then, with England producing wingers in the mould of Marc Albrighten and Scott Sinclair, Bale’s inclusion would still probably be a tough call.
In the centre of the pitch Ramsay would have to contend with players of the quality of Lampard, Gerrard and Michael Carrick. Already there are young guns bursting through such as Jack Rodwell and Jordan Henderson, ready to take their place. But if Ramsay fulfils his potential, he should have no worries.
However, compare that group to the talent of both Scotland and Northern Ireland, and you struggle to see where they could fit one of their own in. Even at wide right, Theo Walcott will blow away anything the others can bring to the table.
Up front it paints an even bleaker picture. On one hand you have the continuous English production of stars such as Wayne Rooney with the next in line being young guns such as Andy Carroll, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge. On the other, you could take a pick from Scotland’s young strikers such as David Goodwillie or Chris Maguire; Simon Church or Ched Evans from Wales; or Liam Boyce or Josh McQuoid from Northern Ireland.
For all of their faults – and there are many – would you swap the English forwards for any of their colleagues from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? I didn’t think so.
So why there is a push for a Great Britain side is baffling. To me, the only “Great” thing about it, would be if just one of those lads – the most likely being Gareth Bale or Aaron Ramsay – made the starting eleven for GB’s first game of 2012.
That wouldn’t just be great, it would be a miracle.
By Joe O’Brien