Belfast Telegraph

Craigan in warning over Celtic proposals

By Mark McIntosh

While the home nations have been getting excited over the proposals for a new Celtic Cup, Northern Ireland star Stephen Craigan has urged caution.

The Motherwell defender has admitted he would love to pit his wits against the best Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland have to offer.

But while there will be undoubted interest in the competition - due to commence next year - from fans and media alike, the experience Craigan has insisted it may not be all it is cracked up to be. Top ranking officials for the Football Association of Ireland, Wales, Scotland have already met on three occasions to discuss the competition and it looks increasingly likely the tournament will take place early next year.

"On paper the idea of this tournament sounds really good and I'm sure a lot of the players would look forward to playing in it," said Craigan. "For me it would be special playing against Scotland as that is where I have played my football for a long time but I'm sure it would cause a few little family discussions too.

"My girlfriend is Scottish and all her family would be supporting Scotland even if I was playing against them.

" That would create a bit of fun on its own of course but there are a lot of other things to consider.

"It's been a long time since the home nations have played against each other regularly and I don't think we have played Scotland since the late 80's.

"From that perspective it would be great to the tournament but I would like England to be involved.

"Obviously due to other things that isn't likely to happen and it would be the other home nations with the Republic but I still have reservations about the logic behind the move."

Craigan is convinced the younger players in the Northern Ireland squad are unlikely to learn what will be needed from such an event.

While the tournament will be competitive, its official status will be as a group of friendly internationals and Craigan doesn't believe it will stand Northern Ireland in good stead for the years to come.

He added: "It does seem a really good idea and there is no doubt a lot of the players would really look forward to it.

"But my concern is that the younger players would not get the development they need out of a competition like this.

"It's all well and good for the older players like myself but I think it is vital the younger lads have a chance to face other European and world sides in friendlies.

"Playing against teams of similar formation and style will not teach you an awful lot and I would worry the younger players might not be prepared in the way they should be when top European countries faced Northern Ireland.

"Foreign players are a completely different breed and if you want to be successful you have to face these players and some stage and I would rather out players did that before it got to the stage of qualifiers."

Irish Football Association chief executive Howard Wells has admitted talks are at an advanced stage.

"We have had several meetings in the past few months and things are progressing very well," said Wells. "We all think the competition would be a good idea and it's all looking very encouraging at this moment.

"But there are a lot of details to be ironed out and that won't happen for a few weeks at the least and when there is something more concrete to tell, we will do so."

Belfast Telegraph


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