Stuart Pearce has named Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs as Team GB captain for the upcoming Olympics - but has he made the right decision?
First of all, questions have to be asked whether the appointment of Pearce was the correct decision. Pearce's employability largely rests upon one mildly encouraging England under-21's campaign back in 2007, and his botched selection betrays his relative inexperience. But from Pearce, you know what you are going to get - plenty of endeavor, enthusiasm and passion, but precious little else - and the FA value Pearce's undoubted loyalty.
His omission of David Beckham provoked a a brief surge of criticism - how could the footballing face of Britain's Olympic bid be left on the sidelines after all? Pearce predictably retreated into the safezone created by Roy Hodgson, insisting "footballing reasons" were behind the decision. That Hodgson precedent is frustratingly vague, and is something of a get-out for managers facing problematic questions.
Instead, Giggs, Micah Richards and Craig Bellamy were selected as the team's three over-age choices. Never mind the fact that Team GB only contains players from Wales and England, the decision to leave out the one true superstar smacks of stubborn intransigence on the part of Pearce.
Once Beckham had been left out, in most people's minds there was only really one candidate for the captaincy. Even though Pearce has since insisted that Bellamy, Aaron Ramsey and Richards were all under consideration to skipper the side, it's hard to believe that it was ever going to be anything other than a straight fight between Giggs and Beckham.
While England boss Hodgson found himself caught between John Terry and Rio Ferdinand three months ago, Pearce evidently felt he couldn't bring both Giggs and Beckham this time around. The 38-year-old Welshman got the nod over his former-United teammate, and Pearce has consolidated the decision by selecting Giggs as his on-pitch lieutenant.
But the Old Trafford star is hardly a uncontroversial pick. His personal life has been dragged through the mud in the past year, as injunctions, super-injunctions, extra-martial affairs and family feuds have stained the United player's previously squeaky-clean public image.
Off-the-field issues have already accounted for one high-profile Premier League player. John Terry's trial for alleged racist abuse against a fellow professional begins today, and the allegation saw him stripped of the England captaincy, and Giggs is perhaps one of the only players able to match Terry in the extra-martial scandal stakes.
Few footballers have the luxury of a skeleton-free closet. But, judging by the media reports dubbing Ryan Giggs the "loverat", which came to light after his extra-martial affairs became public, Giggs has more than most.
Off-the-field issues have little baring on a footballer's ability to do their job, but as the public face of the team, certain issues make the captain's role difficult to fulfill, as Terry found out.
Perhaps, an Old Trafford colleague of Giggs' would have been a better choice. Paul Scholes is once again conspicuous by his absence. Since retirement, England coaches have lamented the loss of one of Britain's most gifted footballers, and Team GB could have been the perfect opportunity for a final Scholes swansong. Unfortunately, once again a British team will seek to win a major tournament without one of its best players.
There is no doubt that Giggs has been a model professional throughout his United career, but his judgement off-the-field has to be taken into consideration. As a role model his reputation has been tarnished, and as captain of this historic Team GB, Pearce has opened his group up to awkward questions.
The Olympic Games was sold to the public based upon its legacy, and its example to young people around the world. The choice of Giggs is difficult to reconcile with such an aim, as the United star is hardly the ideal role model for youngsters up and down the country.
While Giggs got the captaincy almost by default on account of his 20 years of top-flight experience, Pearce could have been brave and looked to the future. Richards has captained Manchester City while Ramsey is the Wales national team captain, and the two players are both talented stars who youngsters can look up to.
This summer, Team GB will reform to compete competitively at the Olympics for the first time since 1960, and interest in Olympic football has barely registered in prior Games, but on home soil, with a home team, the Olympic football tournament finally has a presence on British soil. Unfortunately this opportunity has been wasted.
Tickets remain unsold, and interest is surprisingly low. Pearce may see himself as bravely selecting the best players available, but on a commercial and professional level he's shot himself in the foot.
The opportunity to watch David Beckham play in Britain, for probably the last time, would have ensured sold-out stadiums. While Pearce is right to remind us that squad selections should not be based on celebrity, the fact remains that even on merit, Beckham deserves a place in the team.
Because, if Beckham is a sentimental selection, so is Giggs. Looking objectively there alternatives to both players who would give Team GB a stronger chance of success, namely Michael Carrick, Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand.
Instead Giggs will be going to his first ever international tournament as captain, while Beckham becomes the latest victim of that most ambiguous of excuses.
Peace says Giggs was the "easy choice" for the captaincy. Once Beckham was left out the decision probably was an easy one. The problem is, Pearce got an even simpler decision wrong. Beckham should be in the side, and he should be leading the team out.
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