Team GB divides opinion among managers

Stuart Pearce was last week named as the coach of the Great Britain men’s team for the 2012 Olympic Games. While Pearce has expressed his delight at being asked to take on the role, his toughest task to begin with will be gaining the support of managers, many of whom are sceptical of the idea of their key players being selected for a tournament at a time where clubs will be looking to conclude their pre-season preparations.

With a busy summer of sport in 2012, football is certainly no exception, with the European Championship finals being played in Poland and Ukraine. The tournament final, on July 1, comes less than four weeks before the first matches of the Olympic competition are played, meaning those selected to participate in both tournaments will face an intense schedule, with little time ahead of new domestic campaigns commencing. While many high-profile international players are not expected to feature in the tournament, with only three players over 23 years of age permitted in each squad, many of England’s top clubs feature players eligible for selection outside of the permitted three, leading to opposition from several coaches.

Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has voiced opposition to his players facing the gruelling summer programme, claiming players will be deprived of time to recover from the rigours of the past season ahead of the next, adding that the players’ condition could see Team GB’s campaign end in the kind of failure that has been familiar among the home nations in recent years: “It’s why I keep saying I never expect anyone to do well at the Euros or World Cups because it’s been such a hard season and it’s difficult to do battle again once you’ve been in a long season in England.”

Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger has also expressed his opinions on both the tournament itself and the possible effects on his players, claiming the Olympic competition “is not a real tournament”. Wenger, whose Arsenal squad has been depleted due to injuries throughout the season so far, declared: “At some stage you have to decide how far you can go medically for the players to play so many games under so much pressure”.

Britain coach, Pearce, does have some supporters, with Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas believing the Team GB boss should have the freedom to select his own squad, with Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp willing to back his players if included, with Gareth Bale a strong candidate for selection.

With Great Britain targeting Olympic honours in football for the first time since 1972, Stuart Pearce has been selected to lead the British campaign. However, in a familiar scene among home nation, particularly Pearce’s own country, it would appear that from the outset, the coach’s biggest challenges lie from within, as gathering support for his cause will be key to naming a squad capable of competing for medals.

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