2308: England: Home International re
by : Alex Wolstenholme
Northern Ireland's win over England in Belfast last week has re-ignited calls for the Home International championships to be brought back after an absence of some twenty years.
Such a move would have a number of positive effects. Firstly, as Jim Boyce of the Irish FA has said, it would send a clear message to FIFA that the four home nations were keen on preserving their own identities.
Certain people within the game's governing body are always keen on reducing the influence of the home nations and the fact that England have not considered Scotland, and especially Wales and Northern Ireland as worthy opponents over the years has given them fuel for their argument.
From the point of view of the England manager, whoever it may be, playing Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would provide friendly games that require them to be much sharper and much more focused than they currently need to be.
The intensity of the game that the other home nations would provide would surely tell the manager much more than games against the likes of Denmark.
The arguments for playing other teams in friendlies, namely that they provide a different way of playing for England to adjust to, has been lost in the lack of interest that Sven-Goran Eriksson has shown in them with constant substitutions making them meaningless.
Of course there would still be room for showpiece games against the likes of Brazil and Germany and there is no need for the whole series to be played at the end of the season as it used to be.
It could be spread out across the campaign and played on the designated international dates.
Such a move could also win approval from the players and their club managers given that it would cut down travelling times for those involved significantly for all of those involved.
Security issues would undoubtedly be brought up but last week's games in Cardiff and Belfast passed off without incident as did the Euro 2000 play-off between England and Scotland.
Lastly, but no less significantly are the financial benefits that would accrue, especially for the Welsh and Irish FA's where they are most needed.
Ultimately those financial benefits can be passed down to clubs in those countries which will assist them in producing young players for the future.
The most obvious destinations for players from clubs in Wales and Northern Ireland remains England so there would be long-term benefits for all involved.
Unfortunately, the English FA does not seem able to see past the short-term and the commercial interests that now surround the English team.
12 September 2005