After what feels like years of arguments and wrangling between the governing bodies of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Team GB’s Olympic football squad was finally announced on Monday.
Manager Stuart Pearce announced his 18-man squad at Wembley—all under-23 save for three designated overage players—and there were a few surprises.
It had already been confirmed that David Beckham had not made the cut and that Gareth Bale would join Kyle Walker and Jack Wilshere in missing the tournament through injury, while any players who had participated at Euro 2012 had already been discounted from selection.
It was also known that no Scottish or Northern Irish players would take part amid their respective national associations’ fears of losing their FIFA status.
However, with the likes of Chris Smalling, Kieran Gibbs, Josh McEachran, Jack Rodwell or Jake Livermore all omitted, the announcement still managed to provoke some intrigued responses.
Here is the Team GB squad, and a look at how they could line up for their first match of the Games against Senegal at Old Trafford on July 26.
Jack Butland (Birmingham City)
Jason Steele (Middlesbrough)
Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea)
Steven Caulker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Craig Dawson (West Bromwich Albion)
Micah Richards (Manchester City)
Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur)
Neil Taylor (Swansea City)
James Tomkins (West Ham United)
Joe Allen (Swansea City)
Tom Cleverley (Manchester United)
Jack Cork (Southampton)
Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
Scott Sinclair (Swansea City)
Craig Bellamy (Liverpool)
Marvin Sordell (Bolton Wanderers)
Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea)
That was the most common response to the news that Roy Hodgson had called up Butland to the senior England squad ahead of Euro 2012.
The Birmingham City keeper has never made a first-team appearance for the Blues, with all of his professional games—24 of them—coming on loan at League Two club Cheltenham last season.
The 19-year-old was never likely to play even a minute at Euro 2012 as he was firmly England’s third-choice keeper, and as such he has been allowed special dispensation to play for Team GB.
When Beckham’s exclusion was revealed last week it caused a real stir. However, what rubbed salt in the wound for those who supported the 37-year-old’s claim for a place in the squad was that his spot as an overage player was given to Richards.
The Manchester City defender—whose international career has gotten off to several false starts—refused to take his place as a stand-by in England’s Euro 2012 squad. It was a move which backfired as, after Kyle Walker was ruled out through injury, Liverpool’s uncapped Martin Kelly went to the tournament instead.
Given the controversial circumstances surrounding him, plus his status as a key player for Manchester United’s local rivals, it will be interesting to see what sort of reception Richards gets should he play at Old Trafford.
It feels as though Tomkins has been around for a long time. After all, he signed professional terms at West Ham six years ago, and made his full debut for the Hammers in 2008.
However, having turned 23 in March he qualifies without taking an overage spot, and he will be a strong asset for Pearce’s squad having played for England at every level except the senior side.
The experienced Tomkins has made more than 100 league appearances in the top two divisions and he can also play as a defensive midfielder when required.
Caulker came through the youth ranks at Tottenham, but none of his 99 league appearances have come for Spurs.
Instead, the big centre-back cut his teeth with loan spells at Yeovil Town and Bristol City before making his mark on the Premier League last season at Swansea City.
There, Caulker proved he can play football as well as dominate in the air, and should offer an assured presence at the back that belies his age of just 20.
Ryan Giggs is not the only one in Team GB’s squad to have played in a Champions League final—Chelsea’s Bertrand can also lay claim to that honour.
The left-back—who turns 23 six days before the Olympic final—has only made one European appearance in his career, but it was from the start in last season’s final against Bayern Munich.
Swansea’s Neil Taylor also has a strong claim for the left-back spot, with Tottenham’s Danny Rose another option, but Bertrand’s presence alongside his manager at the press conference announcing the squad might be a hint as to which way his manager is leaning in that regard.
Midfield is perhaps the area where the Team GB squad looks the strongest, but there is one player who will surely be a starter.
Giggs is the most highly-decorated player in the history of English football, but his Welsh nationality has prohibited him playing at any international tournaments until now.
The 38-year-old’s advancing years mean he is no longer able to rampage down the wing as he used to, but he is still a consistently high performer in the centre of the pitch and will provide a commanding and effective presence for Britain.
With no traditional defensive midfielders included in the squad, Team GB’s best tactic may well be a more possession-based game.
Giggs’s abilities in that regard are without question, but in fellow Welshman Allen the British team has another play adept at keeping the ball.
While Allen may not routinely register the absurdly high pass completion percentages of his Swansea teammate Leon Britton, the 22-year-old is also comfortable playing the ball around and, if anything, is more creative.
Last season he scored four Premier League goals and set up another two, whereas Britton did not get off the mark on either count.
Giggs’s young Manchester United teammate may well be the one to deny Aaron Ramsey a place in the first XI, which would have made this an all-Welsh midfield. The Arsenal midfielders' talent is not in question, but his form for the Gunners greatly dipped towards the end of last season.
Cleverley has threatened to really make his mark for the Red Devils on a couple of occasions, but injury has always denied him the chance to prove he is the heir to Paul Scholes’s position on a regular basis.
The 22-year-old would probably have already made his England debut last August against Netherlands, only to see that friendly postponed due to the London riots.
While Scotland and Northern Ireland have stubbornly refused to play any part in the British Olympic team, Welsh football has had a light shone upon it following the announcement of this squad.
There are five Welshmen on the 18-man list, while there are also three Swansea City players there (four if you include Caulker, now back at parent club Tottenham). No other club has more than two of their players involved.
Sinclair has finally found a home at Swansea after being loaned out by Chelsea to six other clubs previously during his young career.
While he starts on the left side of the Swans’ attack, Sinclair is almost as much of a threat on his right foot, so switching wings should not be a problem for him.
Bellamy was the first player to be confirmed as part of Team GB’s squad after he let slip that he had been called up back in June, as reported here by Eurosport.
He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the wily Welshman still has the pace and trickery to worry any centre-back despite him turning 33 between now and the start of the Games.
The well-travelled attacker’s performances were one of the most encouraging things to take out of a topsy-turvy season at Liverpool last term, especially considering he joined them for his second spell at Anfield for nothing.
Sturridge is a player whose career is not quite shaping up as he might have hoped at this point, despite his undoubted talent.
The former Manchester City forward has often voiced his preference for playing as a central striker, but still he continues to be out on the right. Even that was not enough to earn him a place in the team for the Champions League final, either from the start or off the bench.
Now is the perfect opportunity for him to prove to both his club manager Roberto Di Matteo and England boss Roy Hodgson that he deserved a place leading the line of attack.