Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's been talked about for a while now, but today the Carling Nations Cup finally became a reality and I already can't wait for the inaugural competition next year.

A modern day Celtic version of the Home International Championship, the tournament will feature Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. No England, for now at least, and although sceptics will dismiss the tournament for that reason, to me, it's actually a better competition without the English egos being involved. It's more balanced and hopefully there should be a much reduced risk of crowd trouble as a result as well.

So many of us grew up with the end of season excitement that was the Home Internationals, but a whole generation has missed out on these great rivalries to see who was the best in these isles.

A whole generation of footballers have also missed out on the chance for some great dressing room banter with their team-mates in this regard. I've heard some great stories about the Leeds players in the 70's. Let's have stuff like that back. Many footballers in this modern age don't have great stories to relay in years to come.

The Rous Cup that followed the demise of the original Home Internationals was lame and yes, every Scot wants us to beat the English, but it became a waste of players energies in an already crowded football season.

I see the Nations Cup though as a valuable tool for all four of the international managers and a much preferred competitive testing ground than a bunch of pointless friendlies.

The tournament will be played in a League format and instead of home and away matches adding to the fixture chaos, a country will host the event and all the matches will be played in Dublin next year.

The Republic of Ireland are the first such hosts and the games will be played on February 8th and 9th and the week commencing May 23rd.

Hopefully the Nations Cup gets the fans out. Many of us have been crying out for a return of the Home Internationals for a while and now we've got it. It needs to be supported and it needs to be a success to keep it going and to show that we don't need the English to make international football tournaments successful in these countries.

Hopefully a whole new generation, both on and off the pitch, can enjoy these rivalries once more and have something meaningful and exciting to look forward to at the end of the season for many years to come. It's been a long time coming. Let's make sure we make it work.

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