Following an absence of fifty-two years, 2012 will see Great Britain take part in Olympic football once more. Norman Creek was the last man to take Team GB to the Olympics, with the side failing to make it past the first round in Italy in 1960, but expectations for Stuart Pearce’s side will be much greater.
The English FA have sent letters to 191 players from the Home Nations and 184 players responded positively. Nonetheless, the stance of the Scottish FA is definitely a negative one as they fear the loss of their individual status. The selection of English players is also hindered by their participation in Euro 2012, whilst Everton manager David Moyes has stated that none of his players will be permitted to feature. Pearce himself has said that he will be selecting players solely based upon fitness and form.
Speculation surrounds which three players aged over 23 will feature as part of the eighteen-man squad. Former England captain David Beckham has made everyone fully aware of his desire to play and even to captain the side. If he were to be selected, that would mean one less player could be chosen, with Ryan Giggs also a favourite to claim one of the coveted spots. If these two players were to be picked, which is only speculation in itself, who would be the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle? Does Great Britain want an experienced man between the sticks such as Scotland’s Allan McGregor or England’s Paul Robinson? Or is age more important in the back line with players like Northern Ireland’s Gareth MacAuley or the Welshman James Collins? Further still, does Pearce want someone who he knows can bag goals, so maybe a final swan song for Michael Owen or even players like Robert Earnshaw or current Portland Timbers’ man Kris Boyd?
Of course, this is all still just speculation. Michael Owen may never be fully fit again and Allan McGregor might well follow SFA advice to boycott the tournament. With so much uncertainty surrounding the team selection, it seems almost impossible to work out who will actually wear the blue shirt. If Pearce sticks to his word and picks by fitness and form, surely Welshmen Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale will make the cut, both of whom have voiced their desire to take part. Everton’s Jack Rodwell was featured in the marketing photos for the launch of the kit, but Moyes’ words seem to have cast a shadow over his availability. With Arsenal sporting so much young talent, could this be a first international tournament for the impressive Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or maybe even Theo Walcott, if he fails to make the grade for the Euros?
As a renowned international defender, Pearce will look for strength in his options. Could this see Celtic’s Adam Matthews or Scottish under-21s captain Paul Hanlon get a call from the former Manchester City manager? In terms of England, current England under-21s manager Pearce should be well aware of players such as Swansea’s Steven Caulker, West Brom’s Craig Dawson and Liverpool’s Martin Kelly.
Nevertheless, players like Huddersfield’s Jordan Rhodes, John Fleck of Blackpool and the Premier League’s Joe Allen are all in fantastic form, particularly Rhodes leading the top scorers table for League One. Could this tournament be a landmark in the development of so many of these young players, guided by three veterans? Or could it even be proof that Stuart Pearce might be the man to replace Capello? After all, he is filling the shoes of the great Matt Busby. So much speculation and so much uncertainty. Let the games begin.