Team GB boss Pearce refuses to rule out Beckham call-up
Stuart Pearce and Hope Powell named as Team GB football managers for next year's London Olympics
Stuart Pearce has insisted he wants his team to be fully representative after he was appointed Great Britain’s Olympic football head coach for next year’s Games – and he refused to rule out including thirty-something David Beckham in his squad.
The decision to appoint Pearce and Powell as Team GB men’s and women’s head coaches for next year’s Games has been widely predicted and their selection certainly appears logical.
Pearce has been coaching the England under-21 team since 2007, leading them to the semi-finals and final of the European Championship, while Powell has been England’s women’s manager for over 13 years.
Pearce and Powell will now play the role of diplomats, with next year’s Olympics proving particularly contentious in the debate between club and country.
The British Olympic Association wants to field a well-representative British side at the event – the men’s team will be under-23 with three overage players and their is no age restriction for women – and released a statement earlier this year, in conjunction with the FA, claiming they had reached agreement with the other home nations.
But the Scottish and Northern Irish Football Associations, who fear for their unique independent status at Fifa should combine to form a British team, remain opposed.
In addition it has also been agreed that players will not play in both the Euro 2012 finals and Olympics and English youngsters, such as Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott and Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck, who would all qualify for the Olympics, will priortise involvement with Fabio Capello’s England squad.
And there is also the small matter of the Premier League season, which has been put back one week because of next year’s Games, with the Community Shield scheduled for 12 August, the final day of the Games and one day after the Olympic men’s final at Wembley.
“To have the opportunity to galvanise our national game on the Olympic stage is just an incredible honour,” said Pearce.
“Hopefully now the announcement about the team coaches has been made, the Olympics will be more in the forefront of our players’ mind. If I was a player, I’d be doing everything I could to be selected for it.
“Major tournaments on home soil don’t come around very often, if we get on a roll then the excitement the tournament could generate could be something really special.
“I’m not going into this job looking to only select English players. All the home nations should put their players up for selection, much of it will depend on the players mentality, they’ve got to be up for it.
“My job now is about common sense and dialogue with the clubs. I think think the players will want to be part of it. Lionel Messi went to court to get released to play at the Olympics, that shows how major this is.”
Pressed further on Beckham’s ambition – he this week said the decision over his next club must enable him the best chance to fulfil his Olympic ambition – Pearce added: “I don’t know, haven’t seen Beckham play in a while as he’s a bit old for the under-21s.
“But I’m looking at all home nations and players will get in on form and fitness and the door won’t be shut on anybody.”
Powell may not have such club issues to worry about but unlike Pearce – who with the exception of Welsh stars Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale will still probably draw the majority of his players from England – she has several Scottish contenders for her squad, including Arsenal’s Kim Little and Jennifer Beattie.
Powell, the first woman to gain a Uefa pro-licence qualification, had hinted she would step down from her role with the Football Association after the recent World Cup, with under-19 coach Mo Marley tipped as a potential replacement. But the lure of another home tournament, having coached the hosts in the 2005 European Championships in England, proved too strong.
“This is a privilege and an honour and this is a historic moment for women’s football,” said Powell.
“We had home tournament in 2005 but this will be a catalyst for raising the profile of women’s football and hopefully we will have some success to back that up.”
Meanwhile, it is expected Pearce will still be part of Fabio Capello’s backroom staff for next summer’s Euro 2012 finals, which finish less than three weeks before Great Britain’s opening group game on 26 July.