Okay, so it doesn’t take a great historian to know that England and the Republic of Ireland have had some differences in the past. Political, cultural and religious differences have existed for hundreds of years.
But all that is set to be put to one side on Wednesday at Wembley, as the two nations met for the first time in over 18 years to play soccer.
Last time England played Ireland, the game in Dublin on February 15 1995 was abandoned after just 27 minutes after English fans rioted at Lansdowne Road.
This morning, in an email via the FA and in conjunction with FIFA, England manager Roy Hodgson has urged English supporters to remain respectful of the Irish fans and players ahead of tomorrow’s friendly game at Wembley Stadium.
But all that aside, what should we expect from Wednesday’s friendly?
It will be a good spectacle, as Ashley Cole will captain England as he earns his 100th cap for the Three Lions. While LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane will captain the Emerald Isle. Both the English and Irish FA must be commended for putting this friendly on, it will help ease any lingering worries fans and organizers have about hosting future games. Hopefully.
The game itself will see plenty of fringe players given an opportunity, with Hodgson likely to field plenty of youngsters in the starting lineup. The most intriguing factor for England will be the central defensive partnership, with Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill likely to be given the nod.
While Ireland will be using the game as preparation for a key World Cup qualifier with the Faroe Islands on June 7. Giovanni Trapattoni is under intense pressure after Ireland’s poor showing at Euro 2012, but is confident his side can make the World Cup in Brazil next summer.
So will a match up between these two teams ever be a friendly? Nope.
But it should be a great game, in a packed stadium between players who face each other week in, week out in the EPL. That will add an extra spice to the game. Only four of Ireland’s 23 man squad don’t play their domestic soccer in England.
England should win, but Hodgson and England’s fans will be looking to the likes of Wayne Rooney, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Hart to show just how good they really are. Next week they head to Rio to play Brazil, that will be the big test as to whether Hodgson’s men are ready for the fall qualifiers which will seal their World Cup fate.
Let’s hope all the action between England and Ireland happens on the pitch on Wednesday, not off it. Sadly, that wasn’t the case the last time these two teams met in 1995.