Beckham snubbed for the Olympics as coach Pearce opts for City’s Richards

David Beckham
David Beckham
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David Beckham has spoken of his bitter disappointment after his dreams of playing for Great Britain in the Olympics were dashed.

Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards will be the three over-age players in the 18-man squad after 37-year-old Beckham missed out on selection.

It can also be disclosed that neither Manchester United’s Chris Smalling nor Tottenham’s former Sheffield United defender Kyle Walker will be in the squad either – due to the injuries that ruled them out of England’s Euro 2012 matches.

But Tom Cleverley, the 22-year-old United midfield player who also missed Euro 2012 through injury, is expected to be named in the squad.

Beckham, who played a key role in helping London win the right to host the 2012 Olympics at the IOC vote in Singapore in 2005, had harboured hopes of being picked by Stuart Pearce but has been informed by the Team GB coach that he will not get one of the over-age slots.

Beckham is now expected to play a leading role as an ambassador for London 2012 during the Games.

He said in a statement: “Everyone knows how much playing for my country has always meant to me, so I would have been honoured to have been part of this unique Team GB squad.

“Naturally, I am very disappointed, but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me. And like everyone, I will be hoping they can win the gold.

“As a Londoner, I was really proud to have played a small part in bringing the Olympics to my home town as part of Seb Coe’s team and I can’t wait for the Games to begin and will enjoy every moment along with the rest of Great Britain.”

Beckham is understood to have been told by Pearce that he had chosen to pick Leeds-born Manchester City defender Richards instead because he wanted stronger defensive options. The need for defensive cover was exacerbated after Smalling and Walker were both ruled out.

The former England midfielder had been on the 35-man shortlist and Pearce had flown out to the USA to watch him in action for the Los Angeles Galaxy. The player could also point out that he would have at least been match fit while all the other players would be entering the tournament after the summer break.

Giggs and Bellamy were widely expected to be included but the selection of Richards is also as much of a surprise as him being left out of England’s squad for Euro 2012, for which he refused to go on standby.

Other Under-23 players who are almost certain to be confirmed by Pearce include Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and Tottenham’s Gareth Bale.

Manchester United had told the FA in May that they did not want any of their over-age players apart from Welsh winger Giggs to be considered for selection. The club ruled out Pearce picking Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and Jonny Evans for the Olympic tournament.

The British women’s squad announced earlier this week had 16 English players and two Scots, highlighting the coaches are under no pressure to include any token players from the home nations.

The British Olympic Association said they had yet to receive the final 18-man squad from the FA.

A statement said: “With respect to men’s football, the BOA has not yet received from the FA the list of players who are being nominated for Team GB, so we cannot confirm who is, and is not, under consideration for the side.

“We are expecting the list no later than the early part of next week.”

England great Peter Shilton understands Pearce’s decision to omit Beckham.

Shilton, England’s most capped player with 125 appearances, believes Beckham would have struggled with the physical demands of competing at the Games.

“I’ve not been watching David play in the States but it’s a different level of football over there,” said Shilton.

“Stuart Pearce wants to do well and win the tournament. To do that, you must win so many games in so many days and the older you get the less you can do that.

“He’s been a fantastic player over the years, certainly when he was at his peak. But he’s nowhere near the player he was.”