LATER today, Stuart Pearce will announce the identity of the 18 male footballers who will represent Team GB at the Olympics.

For the chosen few, who could include Middlesbrough goalkeeper Jason Steele and Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell, the next six weeks offers the chance to make sporting history.

Great Britain does not normally field a football team at the Olympics, largely because the separate governing bodies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are worried that their lofty status will be diminished if their national identities are subsumed into a broader British creation.

This year is different. It was inconceivable to envisage a home Games without British representation in one of the showcase events, so assurances were received from FA, an uneasy truce was established and the BOA were given the go-ahead to enter both men's and women's teams in the Games.

It is unlikely to happen again in Rio de Janeiro in four years' time, so the players selected this morning have a brief opportunity to write their names into footballing folklore.

They will do something precious few have experienced before them. Precious few, but not none.

Between 1908 and 1960, Britain competed in the football tournament at eight Olympic Games. They won the inaugural competition in London, perhaps an omen for this summer's renewal, and their final appearance came in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

Back then, Olympic competitors had to be amateurs, so a squad of 19 players was selected from the best amateur sides in the country.

Among the 19 was Stockton-born Tommy Thompson and Bishop Auckland midfielder Mike Greenwood, two of the few North-Easterners ever to have represented Great Britain at football.

Greenwood was working as a PE teacher when he received an Olympic call-up, playing matches for Bishops on a midweek evening and at a weekend, quite a contrast to the high-profile professionals who will be selected later today.

"In 1960 all the players were amateurs and had full-time jobs," said Greenwood, now 76 and living in Harrogate.

"In those days it wasn't worth signing professional, although some of them were certainly good enough. One of the Scottish lads in the side, for example, went on to play for Hearts and finished up with five full international caps.

"But players just simply couldn't afford to give up their job. There was a dentist in the team, and he wasn't going to leave that profession for football.

"Laurie Brown was a joiner, I remember, and Bobby Brown a fishmonger at Billingsgate Market in London. There was a real mixture of jobs."

Thompson was making his name with Stockton Town when he was invited to attend a trial, but the call-up resulted in an agonising decision.

He had also been offered professional terms with Middlesbrough, having previously trained alongside the likes of Alan Peacock and Eddie Holliday at Ayresome Park, but appearing at the Olympics would mean putting his club career on hold.

"To play for Great Britain, I had to remain an amateur," said Thompson, who is now 74. "I thought the chance was too good to miss so I attended the trials at Aston Villa and was delighted to be selected for the squad."

Thompson played in qualifying matches against Holland and the Republic of Ireland as Britain secured their place at the Games, but once he arrived in Italy, the Teessider's Olympic dream quickly turned sour.

He broke his leg in Britain's opening game with Brazil in Livorno, and missed subsequent matches against hosts Italy and the Republic of China (now known as Taiwan) as he was forced to spend a week in an Italian hospital.

He would never get the chance to represent Britain again. On returning to England, he signed for Blackpool and went on to make 180 appearances for the Seasiders, playing alongside greats such as Stanley Matthews, Jimmy Armfield, Alan Ball and Emlyn Hughes.

"Playing for Great Britain was one of the proudest highlights of my career and I don't regret for one moment my decision to play for them," said Thompson, who also won four England amateur caps.

"I was only 21 when we travelled to Rome and, although it was not a happy tournament for me personally, it was a huge honour to be involved with the Olympics."

Greenwood played in all of Britain's matches, but never went on to enjoy a professional career. After leaving teaching, he worked at the National Sports Centre in Lilleshall and was also employed by the Sports Council in West Yorkshire.

He retains fond memories of his Olympic experience, and disagrees with those who claim football has no place at the Olympic Games.

"Rome had top facilities, and we stayed in the Olympic village with all the other athletes," said Greenwood. "It was a pretty comfortable place, almost like a university hall of residence. In the evenings, you could sneak out and go clubbing if you wanted to.

"But there was no antagonism between the different countries. We just concentrated on football, so we saw the Russians based next to us as footballers. Politics generally didn't come in to it. We were all there for enjoyment.

"People here aren't used to watching a GB team on their TV screens because it's been so long since we last had a team.

"Football belongs in the Olympics though, just like any other sport. It's been there for 100 years. And Great Britain should have a team. Those of us who played in 1960 were honoured and privileged to play for Great Britain."