UEFA’s decision to enlarge the European Championships to allow smaller nations a shot at the big time (and to make a lot more money) has been controversial. Despite this controversy, I don’t wish to cover the subject, I want to discuss a different enlargement to 24 that I feel we could all get behind. The 24th Player.
Each nation competing at Euro 2016 will be allowed to select a squad of twenty three players. This has been standard practice for many years. My proposal is that this number be increased to twenty four, with the 24th player a “people’s choice” selection. Permitting an ‘extra man’ would allow nations to bring back players who had significantly contributed to the game in their country.
It may seem a strange idea, but surely a stranger idea is a European Championships without the imposing figure of Czech Jan Koller. He was a huge star in his day and would surely still cause havoc, even in the heart of the most stern European defences.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, there’s no way that any country would actually use an ageing player like Koller, well past his prime and a few years into his retirement. However, I have this covered by another law change. The second law change would be that the 24th player would be a fourth substitute that each nation’s manager would be able to utilise at any point during the match or extra-time. If all three subs have been used then you have no option but to throw big Jan K on.
The fun doesn’t end with Koller. Imagine the scene. England vs France, Stade de France, Quarter Finals of Euro 2016. It’s the last minute of extra-time. The teams are level at 1-1. France’s number 24 Eric Cantona’s audacious bicycle kick has been cancelled out by a Jamie Vardy strike, and England get a free-kick on the edge of the box. James Milner and Wayne Rooney are stood over the ball. David Beckham is on the bench. What does Roy Hodgson do? What do the fans want him to do?
As for other nations, I imagine there would be a clamour from around Europe for Wales to take Ryan Giggs. Though I’d expect the Welsh football supporters may well want to call up Sky Sports’ voice of Welsh football Bryn Law, or drag Robert Earnshaw out of international retirement.
Keith Gillespie of Northern Ireland could surely do with a few bob that the Panini merchandise deal could offer and as for their island neighbours surely Roy Keane would be a good shout as he’s unlikely to tell the management team to “stick it up their bollocks” this time around.
Other sub clauses to the 24th man rule would be:
- Any now-retired player selected as a 24th man has to wear a ‘retro’ kit from the era they played in. Brolin can wear his apron.
- Germany aren’t allowed to bring back Miroslav Klose. That would be unfair. He’d probably finish top scorer in Euro 2016 given the opportunity.
This idea would perhaps be greeted with horror by many, but with UEFA and FIFA in a sorry state this is the ideal opportunity to push through new rules like this. Go on UEFA, give it a go. Who would truly enjoy a Jan Koller-less European Championships? And perhaps if it goes well we could see a 25th player in Euro 2020, time to re-unite Brolin & Dahlin?