Former Northern Ireland manager Brian Hamilton has openly supported the right of players born in the North of Ireland to choose their own international future. Speaking on RTE radio, Hamilton stated that while he would prefer players to play for Northern Ireland, he accepted that players had the right to play for Ireland and that their choice should be respected by the IFA.
Hamilton’s interview echoes those of present Ireland players like Shay Given who has supported the right of Darron Gibson and Marc Wilson to play for Ireland and also echeos the support of people and politicians the length and breadth of the island who accept that Irishmen have the right to represent Ireland, as is reflected in FIFA’s own rules.
The eligibility issue has again reared its head as the IFA continue their campaign to stop young players having the right to represent their country at international level. The IFA have recently brought the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, despite 3 previous rulings from FIFA stating that the existing situation of players born in the 6 counties being able to represent Trapattoni’s Ireland, remains.
Hamilton, who managed Northern Ireland for 5 years during the 1990’s said that he had respected the decisions of players to opt to play for Ireland during his time as a manager & that some players simply wanted to play for Ireland, rather than the North. Hamilton continued that it was their choice, a choice he fully accepted.
In what perhaps could be construed as a criticism of the Present boss of the North’s team, Nigel Worthington, Hamilton said that he only ever did interviews relating to sporting issues when he was manager and left the other issues to those who dealt with those matters. He stated that managers should only be concerned about the football and the players.
Worthington has been very vocal in his support for the IFA’s campaign to stop Irish players representing Ireland and has totally failed to grasp the concept that players like Gibson, Wilson etc.., like a large percentage of football supporters in the North have always supported and followed Ireland and it is totally natural to want to represent your national side, as has been talked about by County Antrim born international Marc Wilson.
Hamilton has also again voiced his support for the concept of an all Ireland football team and said it would be ‘something very special’ to have an all Ireland side in the future.
Hamilton is one of the many former northern Ireland players who have openly supported the formation of an all Ireland team. Both Martin O’Neill and Pat Jennings have spoken of their support for a single team on the island, former greats George Best and Derek Dougan spoke openly of their support and current Celtic caretaker boss Neil Lennon was abused by thousands of Northern Ireland fans at Windsor Park after a press interview in which he supported the formation of an all Ireland team.