For years now there has been talk of reviving
British or Home International Championship, the annual tournament the home
nations contested for a century before it was discontinued after the 1984
our short essay on the history of the world�s first football
tournament, we suggested resurrecting it would not serve England's
interests: "Whether regular matches against
Ireland would provide the kind of competition England need to gain success
on the broader international stage is highly questionable.�
Yesterday�s match against Wales,
by far the strongest of the
other home nation teams for the past few seasons, demonstrated that beyond doubt.
England thoroughly outclassed Wales; the 2-0 scoreline hardly reflected
the disparity between the two sides.
Ted Croker, Football
Association executive secretary at the time, wrote in his autobiography that
fixture congestion�which was preventing England from gaining needed
experience against the world�s strongest teams in friendly matches�was the
main reason England could no longer take part in the British Championship.
That reasoning holds true today.
Friendly matches are
already under fire because clubs
resent releasing their players for them.
Annual matches against any of the other home nations would inevitably
prevent England from meeting the world's best teams in preparatory friendlies.
On this question, England cannot afford to indulge in nostalgia-driven
Argentina--or any of a host
of other national sides--is much more valuable for England than yearly matches
against the other home nation teams. That is so not only because of the
quality of the opposition but also because the other home nation sides play in
a style already very familiar to England's players. Indeed, foreign
sides often play one of the home nation teams as preparation for meeting England.
That is not to say England must let two decades go by
between matches against their oldest rivals. as they did with Wales
and Northern Ireland before these two teams were drawn in the same World Cup 2006
qualifying group as England. If
England can find room to meet
Iceland in friendly warmup matches
before major tournaments, as they did in 2000 and 2004, surely they can play
friendlies every few years against Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,
particularly if they have not met these teams in qualifying or final
tournament play for some time.