It’s been a disappointing weekend digesting the difficult group that England faces to progress in the 2014 World cup finals in Brazil, but in truth we all know that it’s winning that matters and the likelihood of that is very low. Even if we were in the Swiss/French group and got through to the later stages, the strength of a Germany, Argentina or Brazil would be too much for us in reality.
What makes it worse however is the knowledge that if we could legally use some of our Celtic cousins currently wearing the red of Wales, we would be so much stronger and perhaps at the next World Cup in Russia 2018, we (as in we the British) could be a real challenger. In order for that to happen we have to disband the separate, English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Football Associations and create a unified Great British Football Association. To some, this is unthinkable, but to others (myself included) it makes perfect sense. Even if this idea is just a pipe dream, it demonstrates that these British Isles collectively produces some excellent players and in the future we may have enough talent to challenge for the World title.
From where we are now, in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, we are starting to see several young players emerge in the EPL, who if they continue to develop, will be World Class players in the near future. These emerging English players are Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley and Luke Shaw. Add to this crop of talent several other English players who are already World Class or on the verge of becoming World Class and who are still young enough to be around in 2018. This group includes Rooney, Hart, Jones, Wellbeck and Walcott.
What would now make this 2018 projection really interesting would be the addition of several Welsh players who are all young enough and good enough to get in this squad – Bale, Ramsey and Allen. There are probably others who will emerge closer to the time, from the Scottish and perhaps Northern Irish teams who could be added to this strong squad, but with the exception of 17 year old Dundee United starlet Ryan Gauld, both teams do not currently have the players that either show the potential or will be young enough to seriously challenge for a place in a unified GB team in 2018.
In the same way that Yugoslavia were better than their historical component parts (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia etc.), a unified British team would be so much stronger than any of its component countries and world stars such as Gareth Bale would not miss out on their once in a life time chance to shine on the biggest stage. Imagine if Messi or Ronaldo were Welsh – there would be an outcry for the world not to see their abilities showcased at the biggest tournament in sport. Bale is now in many peoples opinion as good as these two afore mentioned superstars.
So who would get in this fictional 2018 GB Team? – here are my suggestions. The number in brackets is the age the player will be in 2018.
1. Hart – England (31). Joe would be more experienced and probably at his peak physically by 2018.
2. Walker - England (28). Kyle has shown he has a great engine, delivers a consistent good cross and has a decent footballing brain.
3. Shaw - England (23). Young Luke could be a sky walker if he continues to improve and stay injury free. He should be at a top 4 club within 2 seasons and a regular in their side. Who knows that could be Southampton.
4. Smalling - England (29). Chris has the potential to improve his weaknesses over the next 4 years. He could develop into the new Rio Ferdinand, as he’s a big guy who only needs to improve his reading of the game.
5. Jones - England (26). Phil is still young and with an extra 4 years’ experience he would be potentially a high class defender. He is already very good and can really only get better.
6. Ramsey - Wales (27). The first Welsh player to be included in this team gets in on merit this season. He has been a revelation at Arsenal this year and he should be able to push on from here to become a truly World Class player.
7. Walcott - England (29). Theo is a flying winger who can score. Any team with bullet fast wingers normally does well. Bayern Munich are the best club example currently.
8. Wilshere - England (26). Jack is still to prove his real potential but it’s surely just a matter of time. He will need to stay injury free and fit because this squad will be competitive. With 4 years added experience he could be another Xavi.
9. Rooney - England (33). Yes he will still be around. 5 years older and perhaps Wayne will be slightly past his peak but he should at least be calmer, more sensible and more clinical in front of goal.
10. Barkley - England (25). Wow, we could have the main man for the next 4 years here because the emergence of this youngster at club level has already translated to the international level. A very special talent who will be the lynch pin of any side he plays in.
11. Bale - Wales (29). Gareth would still be flying down that wing in his late twenties. This would be his best chance of playing in the biggest tournament on earth. A certainty for inclusion because he has now shown in two great European leagues that he is awesome with that left foot and very good with the other.
Players making up the 23 man squad for 2018:
GK - Jack Butland – England (25)
GK – Jonathan Bond – England (25)
DF - Kieran Gibbs - England (29)
DF – Carl Jenkinson – England (26)
DF – Michael Keane – England (25)
MF- Ryan Gauld – Scotland (22)
MF - Joe Allen - Wales (28)
MF - Jordan Henderson – England (28)
MF - Andros Townsend – England (27)
F - Alex Oxlade Chamberlian – England (25)
F - Danny Wellbeck – England (28)
F - Rahim Sterling – England (24)