I won’t shut Olympics door on anyone, insists coach Pearce

Stuart Pearce. PA
Stuart Pearce. PA
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Stuart Pearce insists he has total control over who he selects for the Great Britain Olympic football team at London 2012 after being appointed as the head coach.

Pearce, the former England captain and current boss of the Under-21s, was unveiled at Wembley along with Hope Powell, who was installed as head coach of the British women’s team.

Pearce ideally wants a team of players from all the home nations even though the Scottish, Welsh and Irish football associations are all officially opposed to a Great Britain team as a concept, fearing it could jeopardise their independence with FIFA.

Welsh players, Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, however, have already stated they want to play in the Games and the Welsh FA have said they would not stand in their way

Pearce, who played 78 times for England, said: “I’m not going into this job looking only to select English players. It should be made up if at all possible of all the home nations.

“They will get in on form and fitness as at any football team in the country. I won’t shut the door to anyone. If they suggest to me they want to be part of this and their form and fitness is good then it would be silly of me not to select players I thought were good enough.

“A lot of it will depend on the players’ mentality. I think they will be very, very excited to be part of this showcase of football.

“Dialogue will come into it between myself and the federations and the managers concerned and I think support will be galvanised as the months go by and the tournament nears kick-off.”

Pearce would not be drawn on whether 36-year-old David Beckham, who has expressed his desire to play in the Games, might be included as one of the three over-age players allowed in the 18-man squad of Under-23 players,.

“I’ve no idea as yet,” Pearce said. “I’ve not seen him play recently. He’s a bit too old for the Under-21s.

“Everyone will be up for selection. The FA have said to me ‘the decision is totally yours, you pick who you deem right and proper to be part of this spectacle’.”

To highlight what the Games might mean to home players Pearce cited the example of Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who took his club Barcelona to court to guarantee his release for selection at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

The FA initially said no one taking part in Euro 2012 would be available for selection but insist now this is not a hard and fast rule.

The last time Team GB was represented in the men’s Olympic football competition was the 1960 Games in Rome.

Team GB has never competed in a women’s Olympic competition and Powell, head coach of England women since 1998, said: “The fact that we are on home soil with the opportunity to play at Wembley for women’s football is a fantastic honour.

“It will really help us to raise the profile of women’s football.”

The Scottish Football Association yesterday reiterated their opposition to involvement in Team GB.

An SFA statement said: “It is imperative we preserve our voice at the top table of world football and the supporters are in agreement with our stance.”