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Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Great Britain United

BBC Sport Online's Peter Sanderson looks at the possibility of forming a united Great Britain football team which could compete at the Olympics.

So why don't Great Britain have a team playing in the Olympic Games?

A forward line consisting of Ryan Giggs, Michael Owen and Duncan Ferguson is a mouth-watering prospect.

Tony Banks thought it was a great idea. Even Sepp Blatter gave the proposal the nod.

But is it all just a hopeless dream which will always be talked about but never realised?

Or is it feasible that a merger of all four countries could take place allowing Giggs to solve England's left-sided crisis and Owen to provide the Scottish with the firepower they have lacked in recent years.

Martin Keown would certainly give the Welsh a dependable and experienced campaigner at the back and all three countries could provide Northern Ireland with an enviable pool of talent.

I have no problem with a British team at the Olympics. It would not affect their right to play in a World Cup as four teams
  Sepp Blatter
In the past, the Football Associations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all resisted moves to unify a British team so that they do not lose their four votes when it comes to voting for major FIFA decisions.

They also fear a FIFA backlash which could ultimately force England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to play under the British flag in both World Cups and European Championships.

But after England's dismal showing at Euro 2000 and the failure of the other three sides to even qualify, would that be such a bad thing?

Michael Owen
Michael Owen: Part of the GB side?
It certainly gets the imagination working overtime when you consider the number of players to choose from.

Who would manage this Great Britain side? Would they coax someone like Terry Venables out of his supposed break from football or would Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger be contesting for the hotseat.

Or would one of the four national managers have the honour of managing the unified team?

Kevin Keegan always offers bundles of enthusiasm when it comes to tournaments such as these but his tactical naivety was exposed for all to see at Euro 2000.


Mark Hughes meanwhile has enough on his plate playing for Everton while managing Wales and Sammy McIlroy is still in his honeymoon period of international management.

That leaves the affable and popular Craig Brown. Just minutes after Scotland beat England at Wembley in the Euro 2000 play-offs, many said that a combination of Brown's tactical know-how and the rich pool of players English players would be a deadly combination.

On the other hand, the same can be said of Kenny Dalglish and his stature may just pip Brown and leave him the best qualified to take Great Britain into the Olympics.

However, before the best of British is assembled, it's important to observe the rules of the Games.

All the players in each squad must be under 23 years of age, apart from three exceptions who can be any age.

This would severely limit the options of the coach and selection process could be further hampered by the refusal of by some managers to release certain players.

Top coaches already believe British youngsters are playing too much football, and another competition would be not be looked upon in a favourable light.

However, it would provide British youngsters with another incentive and the chance to earn some valuable experience at international level.

It might provide the likes of Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson with some serious selection headaches as their championship challenges gathered pace.

Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon: Possible Olympic call-up
FA spokesman Steve Double hinted that the matter could be looked into in the near future but conceded nothing was being done at the moment.

In an interview with BBC Sport Online, Double said: "The simple reason why we have never entered a team is because we have historically entered each nation individually into other events such as the World Cup.

"We used to enter an amateur side and there is a chance we could enter a side in the future.

"It isn't a matter of losing the four votes, it's just that it is traditionally a British event and we don't currently have a British side."

One of the other great obstacles would be accusations of national bias and any manager would have to take a "political" as well as a football appraoch to selecting his team.

The players would have to come from a relatively even spread of the four home nations or there would be an outcry from those left out in the cold.

With that in mind, and the age restrictions in place, here is a possible Great Britain XI that could have challenged for honours in Sydney.

Manager: Kenny Dalglish

Neil Sullivan (Scotland)
Mark Delaney (Wales)
Kieron Dyer (England)
Rio Ferdinand (England)
Matthew Jones (Wales)
Barry Ferguson (Scotland)
Joe Cole (England)
David Beckham (England)
Michael Owen (England)
David Healy (N Ireland)
Ryan Giggs (Wales)

Other possible squad members

Neil Lennon (Northern Ireland)
Mark Burchill (Scotland)
Keith Gillespie (Northern Ireland)
Emile Heskey (England)
Robbie Savage (Wales)
Richard Wright (England)
Duncan Ferguson (Scotland)

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