GB Football Team: Selection

As David Beckham reveals he hasn’t been selected to play for Team GB in the London 2012 games, Tom Bodell names the 18 he would now pick if he was Manager in his latest piece on the subject for The Substantive.

With the London Games now less than one month away the excitement is clearly mounting. The tickets which I successfully applied for, synchronised swimming & dressage (the excitement is palpable in my household), have arrived and Team GB selectors are making and breaking the dreams of those who have been working towards London 2012 for any number of years.

One group of athletes that hasn’t been confirmed yet is Stuart Pearce’s Team GB football squad. Hope Powell announced her women’s squad 48 hours ago but as yet there is nothing more than newspaper speculation over the identity of the 18 included.

As I sit down to write this piece, David Beckham has just announced he has not made the cut. The general consensus is however that Welsh pair Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs constitute two-thirds Team GB’s ‘over-age’ quota and that Manchester City right-back Micah Richards has been included also. Would they make my 18 though? Here goes…

Goalkeepers:

Jason Steele, 21, (Middlesbrough): I would probably have gone with Jack Butland but players selected by Roy Hodgson for Euro 2012 cannot be selected in order to avoid fatigue. Therefore, I’ve gone with one of the other bright young things of English goalkeeping, Jason Steele. He’s been Middlesbrough’s number one for a couple of years now and seen off more experienced challengers for his number one jersey in that time.

Alex Smithies, 22, (Huddersfield Town):  Again, not an automatic pick, I very much toyed with the idea of Craig Gordon but as that would have spent one of my over-age picks, I decided against it. Another very highly-rated young stopper who has made well over 100 appearances for Huddersfield Town since debuting in 2007 – helped the Terriers to promotion last season via the Play Offs.

Defenders:

Nathaniel Clyne, 21, (Crystal Palace): An automatic pick in Palace’s backline since Neil Warnock handed him his debut in 2008. Like so many English full-backs nowadays, very comfortable getting forward – quick, powerful and also capable of playing at left back. With limited space, Clyne brings versatility. Also linked with Manchester United on several occasions.

Jon Flanagan, 19, (Liverpool): Excited towards the end of the 2010/11 season when selected by Kenny Dalgish, I’d expect Flanagan to push on into the Liverpool first-team on a more consistent basis in the coming years. Good going forward but also very much aware of his defensive responsibilities.

Micah Richards, 24, (Manchester City): Would have gone to Euro 2012 if I was in charge so a very easy pick for the Games. Expect Pearce to select a player who he gave his debut to during his spell as Citizens boss. Strong, quick, versatile and definitely improving defensively.

Stephen Caulker, 20, (Tottenham Hotspur): After an excellent debut campaign in the top-flight with Swansea City last season the former Yeovil Town loanee could prove to be the answer to Spurs’ defensive prayers. Strong and good in the air, the big centre-half has a big future ahead of him.

Kieran Gibbs, 22, (Arsenal): The best young English left-back we have. Even coming off the back of an injury-plagued season you would be hard picked to find someone who could even get close to the Arsenal defender.

Midfielders

Matt Phillips, 21, (Blackpool): Pacey, exciting and always creating or scoring goals, Phillips nearly helped deliver promotion for the Tangerines last season. A loan spell at Sheffield United in the Autumn really kick-started his second season with the ‘Pool. Definitely one for a Premier League move in the near future.

Barry Bannan, 22, (Aston Villa): An exciting, creative midfielder, Bannan becomes my first non-English selection as a Scottish international. Capable of making things happen, the former Leeds and Blackpool loanee is exactly the sort of player Villa could have done with more regularly last term.

Aaron Ramsey, 21, (Arsenal): Another non-Englishman is Arsenal prospect Aaron Ramsey. The sheer volume of central midfielders at the Emirates have hampered the Wales’ captain’s progress but with a loan move in the pipeline according to some reports, the Welsh playmaker could finally kick-on next season.

Joe Allen, 22, (Swansea City): Just come off the back off another highly-impressive campaign in south Wales, Allen has been linked with a move to both Liverpool and Arsenal as a result. Superb technically and a really astute user of the football, Allen would be the metronome at the centre of Team GB’s midfield.

Jordon Mutch, 20, (Cardiff City): Would have made his debut at 15 but for the authorities blocking it. Formerly of Birmingham City until recently, I’ve had the pleasure of watching Mutch for half a season and what a pleasure it was. Comfortable on the ball, blessed with good technique and passing range, Mutch makes the game look easy.

Ryan Giggs, 38, (Manchester United): Yet another Welshman in the squad, Ryan Giggs is the second of three over-23 year-olds. What more can be said about the United legend? Class oozes from every pore of the man and even at 38 he is still very much a game-changer.

Gareth Bale, 22, (Tottenham Hotspur): Signed a new deal this week at White Hart Lane, much to the relief of Spurs supporters. A genuinely class act and someone who will petrify sub-standard Olympic defences with his direct running and boundless energy.

Strikers

Daniel Sturridge, 22, (Chelsea): Would probably have had him in my England squad, but Hodgson’s loss is Pearce’s gain. Might not yet be the finished article and certainly leaves something to be desire defensively but a tricky player who can definitely play centre-forward as well as out wide.

Jordan Rhodes, 22, (Huddersfield Town): Another Huddersfield player, Rhodes is simply put, a goal-machine. He pumps them out year-on-year for Town and yet somehow is still at the Galpharm Stadium. A Scottish international to boot, Ipswich Town must regret the day they let him leave Portman Road for good.

Craig Bellamy, 32, (Liverpool): Capable of playing wide or central if required, Bellamy brings yet more pace to an already rapid forward line. One of Kenny Dalglish’s few good signings, the former Cardiff City loanee is wanted back in south Wales according to reports, Liverpool won’t be keen to lose him though.

Sammy Ameobi, 20, (Newcastle United): Can play wide or through the middle and highly thought of at St James’ Park. At 6’4 he’s surprisingly tall for a predominantly wide forward, looked set to outshine older brother Shola last season before injury ended his campaign.

Tom Bodell

The Substantive Football Columnist Mel Gomes’ new e-book ‘Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley’ is now available to preview and download from Amazon and Smashwords. With past recollections of matches including Clasicos, Milan Derbies and Diego Maradona’s one appearance at White Hart Lane, it covers a journey over land and sea in the 2010-11 Champions League. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.