New Football Association sponsors Vauxhall have suggested re-introducing the Home Internationals in to the football calendar. This has been met with a predictably cool reaction, but with a few tweaks, the idea could well work. Here’s James Welham…
Invite the Republic of Ireland
True, they’re not a ‘home’ nation, but they’re part of the British Isles and one would hope that we’re no longer in danger of witnessing the horrible scenes that resulted in their friendly with England back in 1995 to be abandoned.
Set it for the “gap” years
An annual tournament is too much; after all there is a European Championship and World Cup every other year. However, we all know how depressing those alternate years without big tournaments are, so let’s line it up for the ‘odd’ years.
Host it during a fortnight
The tournament could easily be held over a two week period; three Saturdays and two Wednesdays. Every team gets to take one matchday off and the hosts get to choose which one they would like to take off. What? The hosts? What are you talking about? Ah, I see….
Have a “host nation”
Rather than a series of home and away games like the Six Nations, each team should take turns to host the tournament, giving a fantastic boost to smaller nations that are unlikely to ever host a major championship (like, you know, England). The host nation would play all their games at the same ground, whilst the other games could be spread around the country.
If teams are tied on points, head-to-head is the first tie-breaker. It’s foolish to have a team finish above another in such a small league if they have lost to them.
Proper competition rules
Only three substitutes per team being a particularly important one in order to maintain the integrity of the event.
A sample schedule for a tournament held in Scotland could be:
Saturday: Scotland vs Northern Ireland (Hampden), Wales vs England (Tynecastle)
Wednesday: Scotland vs England (Hampden), Wales vs Republic of Ireland (Easter Road)
Saturday: England vs Republic of Ireland (Hampden), Wales vs Northern Ireland (Rugby Park)
Wednesday: Scotland vs Wales (Hampden), Northern Ireland vs Republic of Ireland (Pittodrie)
Saturday: Scotland vs Republic of Ireland (Hampden), England vs Northern Ireland (Tannadice)
This competition is unlikely to be met with great enthusiasm from the clubs, but they could be mollified by the international sides agreeing to take a limit of two or three players per team. Also, by being involved in this tournament, the respective football associations could agree to have fewer friendly matches during the season, which would be well received by the clubs.
Furthermore, this competition would give teams the ideal opportunity to blood younger players in a competitive environment – rightly or wrongly, a young Scottish player is going to be more ‘up’ for a game against England than a friendly against Slovenia.
So, England vs Wales in Cork? Alex Ferguson won’t like it, but I’ll be watching.
Follow James on Twitter @jameswelham