Stuart Pearce on collision course with Premier League clubs over Team GB Olympic squad
Thursday 19 April 2012
Team GB's Olympic football manager Stuart Pearce will be given authority to select just about about any player he wants for the Great Britain squad, no matter how inconvenient League clubs find it.
By the end of next month, Pearce will select an 18-man squad, plus standby players, for the under-23 tournament this summer. This includes three over-age players, one of which could be former England captain David Beckham. Otherwise,the only advice Pearce has been given is not to pick anyone selected for England's 2012 Euro Championship squad.
The Olympic football tournament runs from 26 July to the Wembley final on 11 August, which is exactly one week before the new Premier League season kicks off. However, that does raise the potential for players who just miss out on the Euros being asked to report for Olympic duty.
While no player is expected to be prevented from participating, it is easy to imagine some managers being unhappy at losing too many players from their pre-season schedule, especially if rival clubs were unaffected.
It is understood that the Football Association has full confidence that the relationship Pearce has already built with senior Premier League clubs will ensure potential problems are sorted out before they become an issue.
The matter is complicated by the fact that it has not yet been decided who will pick the Euro 2012 squad, with Pearce still a possibility, even though the FA have said they intend to have a full-time replacement for Fabio Capello in place in time.
At the moment, Pearce is juggling both jobs and has just whittled a 191-strong list of Olympic candidates down to 80. Representatives from all four Home Nations are in that list, including Gareth Bale, Craig Bellamy, Steven Fletcher and Chris Brunt, and the FA remain optimistic that non-English players will accept the chance to play in a major tournament on home soil.
However, the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish FAs are completely opposed to participation and, while they accept there is no legal basis to bar selection, dire warnings about the future of national teams are bound to be made.
Arsenal's Jack Wilshere has been ruled out through injury but Joe Cole, currently on loan at Lille, is among the potential over-age players, while Birmingham's Jack Butland, Chelsea's Josh McEachran and Crystal Palace's Nathaniel Clyne are among those who meet the under-23 criteria.
In excess of 50,000 have been sold for the opening game at Old Trafford on 26 July and a double-header friendly, featuring both the men's and women's teams, will be confirmed for the north-east at some stage over the next few weeks.
GB will learn their three group-stage opponents at Tuesday's official draw, although it is likely they will be kept apart from fellow European contenders Spain Switzerland and Belarus, plus Brazil, who will almost certainly also be a top seed.
Argentina, the United States and Australia are among the most notable teams who have not qualified but the presence of Uruguay, Mexico and New Zealand should generate wider interest.
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