This summer, fans of international football are going to be in for a proper treat when an exciting tournament brings together some of the finest and most skilful players this planet has ever seen.
But before you get all arsy with me and tell me you are already well aware that Euro 24 is on the way, I would just like to point out that the tournament I am referring to has nothing to do with UEFA’s flagship competition.
While there is obviously a lot of anticipation for that tournament, which takes place in Germany, I suspect you will agree with me that it pales into insignificance in comparison to this other one... an over-35s World Cup.
When I heard plans are afoot to run this new tournament in June, I have to confess to doing a little light drooling.
This competition will bring together the eight nations that have previously won the main World Cup; in other words, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, England, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
And, as the name suggests, it will only be open to players that are 35 or over, which means we are going to be treated to a festival of football that brings together some of the greatest and most iconic players the sport has ever seen.
There is something truly enthralling about the thought of seeing legends showing the kids how football should be played
The England team, for example, is likely to include the likes of Michael Owen, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Robbie Fowler. Italy will turn to players like Fabio Cannavaro and Francesco Totti, while Brazil will make use of Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Kaka, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo.
In other words, these teams will be made up of pure unadulterated legends, the likes of which I never thought we would see playing competitive football again.
The tournament, which is planned to be staged in the north of England, is the brainchild of an organisation called the Elite Players Group (EPG), which brings together retired legends and sports businessmen. Although final details have not yet been hammered out, plans are for the tournament to be held at the beginning of June, so after domestic football has finished but before Euro 24 gets going.
The games themselves will be 70 minutes long and will have rolling substitutes so each team will be able to make full use of their 18-man squads. And I guess giving the players breathing space is crucial considering many of them won’t be the same physical condition they were in their prime.
Don’t get me wrong, I am sure Euro 24 will be a great tournament with lots to get excited about. But there is something truly enthralling about the thought of seeing legends like Thierry Henry, Hernán Crespo, Carles Puyol and Rio Ferdinand showing the kids how football should be played.
There is, of course, always the chance that the EPG will not manage to pull it off. They only have four months to put the whole thing together and that won’t be easy. But if they sort out the logistics this could very well be the football highlight of the summer.
Let me go on record right now as saying I am passionately looking forward to watching England’s senior statesmen play wonderfully, roll back the years, flatter to deceive and get knocked out in the semis...
Number 17 for Neil
They say you can’t keep a good man down. Well, the same would appear to apply to the controversial ones as well.
Last week, Neil ‘love him or loathe him’ Warnock took over at Scottish Premier League side Aberdeen, the 17th club he has managed in a career that has now spanned an incredible 44 years.
Warnock has made numerous attempts to retire over the last couple of decades, with little success. It seems that every time the former Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers boss hangs up his managerial hat, another club comes knocking on the 75-year-old’s door.
And, having always wanted to manage in Scotland, it was almost inevitable he would say yes when Aberdeen asked him to fill in their vacant position till the end of the season.
As is pretty standard for a Warnock appointment, Aberdeen’s fans were not entirely enthralled when he got the job.
But, as someone who has experienced Warnock running the club I support, I can tell those Aberdeen fans this much for nothing: you may not like him now, but once you have first-hand experience of his passion, energy and drive and get to see his truly incredible man-management skills in full flow, you will develop a begrudging love for Warnock.
Yes, I know it’s weird but there is something incredibly comforting about having him on your side – he makes it feel like your team is being properly looked after and protected and that there is someone fighting your corner.
Unusually, in this case Warnock wasn’t appointed by a club that needed a rescue mission – Aberdeen’s place in the top-flight is all but secure. So, he has said his focus during his short spell in Scotland will be on trying to win a cup.
Amazingly, despite gaining a rather impressive eight promotions during his career, Warnock has never actually won a cup. If he were to manage that north of the border it would be a fitting way for him to bow out... although at that point you would think the Aberdeen fans would have seen enough to want him to keep going.
Warnock isn’t the greatest manager there has ever been. He isn’t a Sir Alex, nor is he a special one. But his talent, longevity and pure football passion make him a proper legend of modern football, and when he really does retire, the game will be a bit poorer for it.
Celebrating too hard
Just a little footnote about Mikel Arteta.
Yes, Arsenal’s victory over Liverpool last Sunday was well deserved, and yes, it was extra significant considering the opponents and the relative league positions.
But his celebrations... wow... talk about overkill!
Anyone would have thought the victory secured the title itself rather than just brought the Gunners back into the race.
And, as Arteta will undoubtedly recall from last season, it’s not being in the title race that’s important, it’s having the stamina to stay in it all the way to the end.