Published Wednesday, 04 July 2012
In his squad, finally revealed yesterday following a lengthy selection process, Stuart Pearce failed to name a single Northern Irish or Scottish player.
It is a clear indication from Pearce that Northern Irish and Scottish players just aren't good enough to represent a team of British misfits. Let's face it that is what the Team GB football team is.
It is a collection of players who couldn't make Euro 2012 because they either weren't picked byEngland or couldn't qualify with their own nation and who just happened to be under the required age and fit to play. How much of an indictment of Northern Irish and Scottish football is it that not one player could make it to the full squad?
Whether you agree with the idea of an all British Team or not, personally it has me scratching my head until it hurts, you have to agree with Pearce on his selection policy. It was always going to be difficult to put together a semi-competitive team with all the constraints laid upon him such as the under-23 age limit, injuries to Gareth Bale and Jack Wilshire and being unable to pick any players from England's Euro 2012 squad. Realistically what chance does a Northern Ireland player have when David Beckham, England's poster boy for the past 15 years or so, can't even get in the team on football ability?
The only Northern Ireland player who would have got anywhere near the team is Jonny Evans but unfortunately, or fortunately if you're the IFA, he is suffering from an ankle injury. The Manchester United defender had arguably his best season at Old Trafford deputising in the heart of defence for captain Nemanja Vidic. Other than Evans, who would have had to be one of Pearce's over 23 selections, there is no one else who jumps out as a must for inclusion.
Steve Davis and Paddy McCourt had decent seasons but would you pick them ahead of Ryan Giggs and Tom Cleverley?
It is probably a good thing in terms of the IFA's position towards the idea of Team GB that there are no players from Northern Ireland included as it would have presented the organisation with something of a dilemma.
From day one the IFA voiced their opposition to Northern Ireland players representing an all Britain team in the Olympics. However, the Welsh FA also panned the idea yet there are FIVE Welsh players included in the squad. That can only mean one thing. Northern Ireland does not have a single player under the age of 23 worth considering for a team partaking in a glorified kick about.
The IFA and Michael O'Neill need to look long and hard at how to develop young players. The stance taken by the Irish Football Association was nothing more than a smoke screen used to cloud the fact they are not producing the players of the level required for international football.
It is sure to be a long, long road ahead for football in Northern Ireland and, in football, things are always likely to get worse before they get better.