Pearce flies off to check on Beckham


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The Independent Online

Stuart Pearce, the man with three jobs, insists that all players will be treated equally when it comes to deciding his 18-strong squad for the Olympics, in which he will manage Great Britain's first appearance for 52 years. None will be left out to satisfy club managers' demands, none will be included to satisfy any national demands, and no one will be selected because he is called David Beckham. Selection, insists Pearce, is entirely down to form and fitness.

Pearce will, though, put two of his jobs – as England Under-21 manager and England's caretaker coach – on hold to give Beckham the courtesy of a near-10,000-mile round trip to watch the former England captain play for LA Galaxy in Seattle.

To date Pearce has been relying on DVDs of Galaxy games to gauge Beckham's form as he mulls over whether the 36-year-old is worthy of one of the three over-age places available. Britain have been drawn against a Uruguay side likely to include Luis Suarez, Senegal (possibly with Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé), and the UAE.

"Form and fitness will dictate the make-up of the squad," said Pearce after the draw, made at Wembley yesterday by Brazil's 1996 bronze medallist, Ronaldo . "David falls into the same category. I have a duty of care to the Great Britain squad to try and win a gold medal. I will pick the strongest possible squad I can.

"I will know a bit more when I go to the States to see what form [Beckham] is in. He's made the shortlist and he has been a great ambassador for this country and the Olympics, but that's no recommendation that he will get in the squad, and that's fair and square across the board for all players."

Pearce's final choice will not be well received around a number of Premier League clubs, whose seasons begin the week after the Games. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger have already voiced objections to their players being involved. Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, for example, is on the 80-strong long list that will be cut to 18 by mid-May (after England's Euro 2012 squad is named).

Britain's women were given the plum draw of Brazil. Hope Powell's side will face the Beijing silver medallists at Wembley on 31 July – after kicking off the Games against New Zealand on 25 July in the Millennium Stadium, two days before the opening ceremony.