The world is watching, all eyes on our tiny island as the Olympics draws nearer and nearer whilst London holds it’s breath in anticipation. Across the city, in an office located at Soho Square, another set of people will also hold their breath. But more in nervous anticipation. The F.A are understandably worried about the impact entering a Great Britain side in the Olympics for the first time in 52 years will have. The Celtic Nations are far more concerned. Reluctant to contribute on the basis that Olympic selection could undermine the independence of Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland, questions over the commitment of the Home Nations players to the Great British cause has been raised. Rob Earnshaw went public this week, stating ‘the Wales team has been around for so long, we want to be here forever,’ merely voicing the feelings felt many supporters of the Dragon nation. Though I’m not entirely sure why Earnshaw has uttered his opinion, as given the nature of his finishing against England back in September, his selection seems highly improbable. Other players have offered more promising noises over their participation, with Wales’ Joe Allen and more importantly, Gareth Bale articulating concerns over the FAW’s opposition to the Great Britain side. These are encouraging signs, as the governing bodies of Scotland and Northern Ireland have also expressed concerns over the involvement of the players of their respective nations, and therefore the more players willing to declare their support for Team GB, the better. Whilst their anxieties are understandable; can anyone really question their eagerness to protect their footballing sovereignty, it is important to have a representation for our most popular and ultimately national sport at our home Olympic Games. It may even offer a chance at international success!
England’s own F.A are suffering problems of their own, as once again the issue of club vs. country rears it’s ugly and monstrous head. Premiership managers are already expressing concerns about the fact players could potentially play in both next summer’s Euro 2012 and the Olympics. There are no prizes for guessing who jumped straight on the moany bandwagon, as serial whinge offenders Mr Ferguson and Monsieur Wenger immediately chipped in with their two pennyworth. Although Arsene has a point when he insists the event is “not a real competition,” his complaints resound rather like a broken record, as every time an international break comes up, the same old arguments of the extreme physical demands forced onto his players comes to the fore. Ferguson has also raised similar complaints, questioning why “players who have gone through a hell of a season” should then be asked to put their bodies on the line once more. Again, this is a valid point, the rigours of professional football today are becoming unmanageable, and top players regularly feature in over 50 games a season. But what the two managers haven’t built into their considerations are the Olympic rules, as the squad of 18 players can only contain 3 players over the age of 23. Therefore it is unlikely that players will suffer a cross-over between the two squads, as the majority of Euro 2012 selections will feature experienced stars over this age line. Admittedly there are notable exceptions, players like Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere or Phil Jones could potentially double-up, and this creates a problem, one the F.A have pledged to solve by engaging in “sensible dialogue” with clubs over such situations to ensure protection from player burnout to guarantee success is possible in both major tournaments next summer.
So onto the side itself. Stuart Pearce has been appointed manager, an interesting decision, but probably the man best suited for the job given his involvement with England at U21 level despite such limited success. After all, a good proportion of players picked will surely come from that team. Ignoring the arguments between the respective governing bodies of each Home Nation, Pearce needs to find a blend to the side that contains players from all 4 nations, and not just allow the talented English youngsters bursting on the scene to dominate the squad. This will help douse this Celtic contingent suspicions towards Team GB, whilst also ensuring the side will have a genuinely British feel, something that is important to harvest optimum support given matches could potentially be played at the Millennium Stadium and Hampden Park, not just Wembley. I would also state that whilst the option to use players already featuring in Euro 2012 remains open, Pearce must resist the temptation to select them, not just because of the busy summer schedule this would create for such individuals but the fact players will indeed be burnt out. Featuring in two major tournaments in one summer could prove too much of a mental and physical drain on these young lads, whilst their season will have then run from August to August, a full calendar year without a break.
So with that in mind, the choice of his three over 23 players could be crucial, vital to adding experience and gelling the side together. And my first two names would be controversial, but talismanic all the same. Not just over 23, but over 33 as well, two old teammates from the Manchester United ‘you don’t win anything with kids’ side of the 90’s are the perfect cornerstones for an Olympic side. Yep, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham. The wizard of the dribble and the king of the set piece. Perfect figureheads. Legends in their respective countries, both available, whilst offering the ability to provide a bit of harmony between the Home Nations, even adding global appeal to an Olympic event that gets overshadowed due to the poor quality of the competing sides. Not to mention they can both still play a bit. So there you have it, the first two names on a team sheet that can hopefully add a gold medal to the Euro 2012 winners’ ones the England side will pick up in July. Or is that just wishful thinking?
Here is my selected squad for the Olympic Games:
1.Allan McGregor,Scotland, 29 (O23)
2.Kyle Walker,England, 21 (subject to Euro 2012 squad)
3. Gareth Bale,Wales, 22
4.Phil Jones,England, 19 (subject to Euro 2012 squad)
5.Chris Smalling,England, 21 (subject to Euro 2012 squad)
6. Aaron Ramsey,Wales, 20
7.David Beckham,England, 36 (O23)
8.Barry Bannan,Scotland, 21
9.Andy Carroll,England, 23/DannyWelbeck,England, 20 (subject to Euro 2012 squad, one will be in it)
10.Daniel Sturridge,England, 22
11. Ryan Giggs,Wales, 37 (O23)
12.Danny Wilson,Scotland, 19
13. Rhys Taylor,Wales, 22
14.Kieran Gibbs,England, 22
15.Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain,England, 18
16.Jordan Henderson,England, 21
17.Liam Boyce,Northern Ireland, 21
18.David Goodwillie,Scotland, 22