England's Euro 2012 loss should be Team GB's London Olympics gain
Now that Roy Hodgson has relinquished Stuart Pearce of one of his three international roles and helped himself to the pick of the litter for his Euro 2012 squad, Team GB’s Head Coach can sift through the remains and embark on his own selection process. He may be pleasantly surprised as some of Hodgson’s unexpected omissions will certainly benefit his 18-man, multinational squad for the London Olympics.
The availability of Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge is a real boost. Aged 23 and 22 respectively, they both have Champions League experience and qualify for two of 15 under-23 vacancies. They are surely certain to be selected and feature heavily, while Kyle Walker was set to be England’s first-choice right-back until a toe injury ended his chances. He should be fit in time for the Olympics and has expressed a public interest in the tournament.
Ryan Bertrand excelled in the Champions League final, playing out of position on the left wing, and there is a good chance that he will be selected and revert to his favoured role at left-back. It is a position where Team GB have plenty of options, with Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs and Swansea City’s Neil Taylor also strong candidates for inclusion.
John Ruddy’s broken finger resulted in Jack Butland’s promotion from the standby list, but he is unlikely to feature at Euro 2012. and retains a hope that he may still be selected by Pearce. “The Olympics will be an incredible tournament,” Butland revealed to Sky Sports, adding: “If there's a chance of still being able to go, I would grasp the opportunity with both hands.”
40-goal Huddersfield striker Jordan Rhodes, a 22-year-old Scottish international, is attracting strong Premier League interest and certainly requires consideration. 24-year-old Adam Johnson and 25-year-old Aaron Lennon may be regarded as relative veterans, but remain talented and exciting options for the wings.
David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Joe Cole are possible selections as the three overage choices, but with plenty of competition and available options in midfield, drafting in an experienced goalkeeper or centre-back may be more sensible.
Sir Alex Ferguson has already declared that their only senior player available for selection will be Giggs and according to a 2008 Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling, he is within his rights to do so. The availability of Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Michael Carrick may tempt Pearce to confront Ferguson on the subject, and he will also be monitoring Chris Smalling’s groin injury with interest.
Issues regarding availability and the merging of independent nations remain unresolved and are sure to intensify in the coming weeks. The case of Aston Villa’s Barry Bannan demonstrates some of the problems associated with Team GB participation. The 22-year-old expressed an interest in playing at the Olympics but the opposition amongst Scottish fans has resulted in Bannan reconsidering his potential involvement and may now turn down the opportunity if selected.
Pearce will expect to have free reign to select who he pleases, but if players reconsider in the face of fan opposition, the whole concept of a Great Britain football team will be fatally compromised.
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