The drawn-out, long-winded Team GB squad selection has finally been made and Stuart Pearce has largely played it safe, borrowing heavily from his England Under-21 squad and adding a few Premier League-based Welsh internationals. It is a squad that is rich in potential but short on experience.
With very little to choose from regarding potential goalkeeping options, Pearce has opted for England Under-21 regulars Luke Steele of Middlesbrough and Birmingham’s Jack Butland, given special dispensation to play after his Euro 2012 selection. Butland is very highly regarded and expected to be first choice, but has only played a handful of games for Cheltenham and is yet to play for his parent club at Championship level. A steep learning curve awaits.
Steven Caulker has a wealth of international experience at youth level and has made around 100 league appearances during three loan spells, including an impressive campaign in the heart of the Swansea defence last season, but is also yet to play senior football of note for his parent club Spurs. Fellow defender Craig Dawson is another of Pearce’s favourites, scored a couple of goals in his Under-21 debut against Azerbaijan and regularly features internationally, but is rarely selected for West Brom.
Danny Rose scored a wonderful solo effort for Pearce against Norway last summer, but is often dispatched on loan by Spurs, while Marvin Sordell scored on his international debut against Israel in September but has hardly played for Bolton since his January move. Tom Cleverley has a lofty reputation that appears to have been enhanced by his frequent absences, but he has played very little in the last 12 months, remains an injury concern and is a risky choice.
Pearce was fortunate to inherit Daniel Sturridge, who failed to make England’s Euro 2012 squad after a disappointing end to the season and has now been ruled out after contracting meningitis, plus Micah Richards, who appears to have been forgiven for snubbing a place on Roy Hodgson’s standby list. Richards broke in to the Manchester City team during Pearce’s time in charge and he joins Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy as the three senior selections. Whether or not Giggs’ international retirement should preclude him from consideration is now a moot point, but no one would deny him a first taste of international tournament football, while Bellamy will expect his younger colleagues to replicate his own exacting standards.
David Beckham may be the highest profile absentee, but there are plenty more notable omissions, as an enormous long-list was gradually whittled down. The final choice contains no Scottish or Irish representatives, but Steven Fletcher was in the provisional squad of 35 and would have provided a cutting edge amongst a collective that looks short of goals, also ignored was goal machine Jordan Rhodes. With a shortage of right-sided midfielders too, Barry Bannan, Adam Johnson and Aaron Lennon would have fit the bill, Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs was surprisingly overlooked while the absence of Crystal Palace pair Wilfried Zaha and Nathaniel Clyne is disappointing.
Pearce has described his selection process as a meritocracy, but has largely entrusted those that he works with on a regular basis in his permanent role and has a subsequent vested interest in their development. Cries of nepotism were inevitable but there is an apparent lack of options and Olympic expectations should reflect that.
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