GB Football Team: The Chosen Few

Ten days ago football blogger Tom Bodell named the men’s squad he would take to the Olympics as part of his series for The Substantive covering the men’s football team GB for London 2012. Today he reflects on Stuart Pearce’s eighteen, and where they differed.

Stuart Pearce’s Team GB has been announced and doubtless there were a few surprises in there, in particular certain big names that didn’t make the cut. Somewhat unsurprisingly though, Psycho and I only agreed on eight of the 18 names selected.

The big non-inclusion was of course David Beckham, a man who did more than any member of the squad to bring the Games to London in the first place, as has been said approximately a million times since the news broke. Does that goodwill earn you a place in the competition though? Not in my book. After all, if you’re going to include Beckham in the football squad, will Seb Coe be selected for the 1500m? Coe also played a massive part in bringing the Games to this country but I certainly haven’t heard any calls for his selection on sentimental grounds.

What it boils down to is whether or not we want a competitive Team GB football team or if we’re going to treat this as an opportunity to pat Beckham on the back and not take the whole event seriously. You only need look at the intimidating squads that the Brazilians and Spanish have put together to see that we’d be the only nation taking the football tournament lightly.

Pearce was of course robbed of the services of Gareth Bale through injury, but it’s still good to see that a number of Welsh players have made the cut for Team GB, even if they are the only other nation comprising the final selection. Swansea’s Joe Allen was somebody we both agreed on, and Neil Taylor was someone I thought about including before opting for Kieran Gibbs who I felt had more top-class experience.

Scott Sinclair was a good inclusion and off the back of another excellent season at Swansea deserved the call-up. I had picked Blackpool’s Matt Phillips who is a similar player but plays in midfield opposed to Sinclair who is an out-and-out wide forward.

Aaron Ramsey, Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs were all obvious picks and Pearce has made another good call yesterday in selecting Giggs as his captain. There will probably not be anyone else competing with such a wealth of experience so you can’t argue with that choice.

At the back, Pearce ‘broke’ the rule of no European Championship squad members being selected by taking Birmingham City youngster Jack Butland. Had I been less of a stickler for the rules I would have taken Butland too. In fairness, he didn’t play at the Euros but this will certainly be good experience for him before he returns to his club to take up the number one shirt.

Micah Richards was of course selected, as indeed he should have been for the European Championships. As someone who was brought through under Pearce at Manchester City, it was never in doubt.

Fellow centre-half Steven Caulker was called up after an impressive season at Swansea City. It’s hard to believe the Tottenham defender was on-loan at Yeovil Town in League One during the 2010-11 season. Caulker certainly appears to have a bright future ahead of him and with Spurs shedding centre-backs this off-season, he’s recently signed a new deal at White Hart Lane.

Southampton’ s classy midfielder Jack Cork was someone incredibly unlucky not to make the cut in my final selection, he was certainly amongst those who I was hard-pushed to leave out. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Cork live for half a season and even three years ago you could see he would be a good player. Groomed at Chelsea, I doubt many will have heard of him but now Southampton are back in the top-flight he might get some of the plaudits he deserves.

In the striking ranks, my wildcard picks of Sammy Ameobi and Jordan Rhodes were certainly left-field and I never truly expected Pearce to feel the same way about either. There was however a real lack of quality striking options available with England taking most our best U23’s away to the Euro’s.

Had I had the luxury of an overage selection left to use I would have taken Scotland’s Stephen Fletcher. However, with all the overage slots filled, Pearce selected former Watford man, Marvin Sordell. I did consider Sordell myself, but with just three substitute appearances for Bolton Wanderers since moving in January I opted against him. Sordell is another name that won’t be known to many, but he certainly has potentially. Quick, tricky and with the ability to score all kinds of goals he does lack the ability to get his head up and spot a pass. He can also be considered a touch greedy on occasion – a quality which is fine to a degree, but infuriating thereafter.

All-in-all, there isn’t one name in Pearce’s 18 which I can’t see the logic behind which bodes well. Team GB have friendly against Brazil later this month at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium. If they can get through that unscathed, who knows, perhaps after 46 years, something will be coming ‘home’!

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.