When it was announced that Team GB were to enter a football team at the Olympics for the first time since 1960, people looked forward to a new horizon for British football, a new and potentially fruitful challenge to be explored to it’s full potetial. However, the reality is that it could be looked back on as mediocre, disappointing and ultimately, a missed opportunity.
It was the chance for four nations to put their players together to give them a good chance of winning. There was nowhere better to do it than with home support behind them and a good chance of uniting a nation in a sport where there is such rivalry. This ‘new challenge’ was blown away when the BOA handed control of the squad and management to The FA. Whilst they do some things well, I can’t imagine them being labelled ‘the worst governing body in sport’ was a glowing endorsement to the decision makers. Instead of selecting people from all 4 home associations, giving sole control to The FA ensured this was nothing more than an extension of ‘Team England’ with the obligatory Welshmen thrown in.
Was a medal really the be all and end all of this competition? I doubt it seeing as this was effectively a new team in a sport which isn’t viewed as major in Olympic terms. This could well have been a stepping stone towards future Olympic games and how a GB football team would work in years to come. Squad selection should’ve been about putting bums on seats, encouraging high attendance figures and ultimately living up to the London 2012 slogan of ‘inspiring a generation’. Call me cynical, but I have my doubts that Ryan Bertrand and Jack Cork are going to have people rushing to buy tickets.
It must be noted that the loss of Scottish players to Team GB obviously had an impact to the make up of the squad, but also contributed to a more English feel, which I’m sure the powers that be were hoping to avoid, but were bound to walk into when one national body was charged with representing the interests of four. Exciting youngsters should have been put at the forefront of selection, alongside iconic older figures. The future of the four nations should have been showcased to Britain and the world, instead we ended up with the likes of Marvin Sordell. I’m sure even a selection of the brightest talents within the English Football League would’ve more than held it’s own at these games. Whilst Sordell’s inclusion is hardly inspiring, it has to be said that England look in good hands with the goalkeepers of the future in Jack Butland and Jason Steele, and that is alongside the senior England goalkeeper, Joe Hart.
The lack of direction in the squad selection and the apparent lack of tactics during games was summed up by the choice of management. Once The FA were put in charge of this, Stuart Pearce was the only candidate. It appears that Pearce has got himself in the right positions within the corridors of power at Wembley, and is generally seen to be an ‘FA man’. Its clear to see that the FA desperately want Pearce to become a successful manager, no matter how unlikely it may seem in reality. It’s likely that Pearce was also a preferred candidate as he displays those ‘British’ qualities of being a fighter and having desire and spirit, whilst ultimately, Pearce is best remembered for not quite getting there, not being hugely successful on the stage where it most mattered. Afer all, Britain loves a loser.
For a team that took seven years to finally bring to being, for the countless hours of speculation and discussion and for all the promises made, Team GB football, the men in particular has failed to inspire the masses like was hoped. Given the practical issues of the timing of the games in between a major European tournament and the domestic season, it remains to be seen if this experiment will be viewed as a success, and more importantly, whether it’s a project that will continue for years to come. This was British football’s best chance to showcase something of this kind, something no other country in the world could boast, and I’m left with the impression they may have missed the target.