Watching “Team GB” in London was a re-invigorating exercise. With each passing game, the odd Welsh-English amalgam of a starting 11 got stronger.
While the likes of Spain and Uruguay floundered, Great Britain made a respectable run. In the end, penalty kicks once again did the British in. However, there are many positives that can be taken away.
Namely, Stuart Pearce produced a side which was noteworthy for its self-assuredness. The midfield trio was as confident as the attacking play was clever.
This is a team which had an honest shot at gold. They achieved that long-elusive goal for British football: a team capable of garnering results without sacrificing substance.
At the heart of that idea stands one present, and perhaps one future, Liverpool player.
Craig Bellamy was a revelation.
Those calling for David Beckham’s inclusion were left to eat their words. While the Galaxy star rode his power boat down the Thames, Liverpool’s Welsh winger dominated proceedings on the pitch.
He exhibited the fitness of a player about a decade his junior. Further, It is hard to recall a winger who manages to integrate himself so thoroughly with all phases of the game.
Bellamy was selflessly tenacious in getting back on defence. He aided the composure of a relatively young midfield trio by constantly assisting as a fourth outlet. Finally, he continuously split defences with marauding runs down the flank.
In addition, he is turning into a fantastic leader. The once vitriolic forward has turned that over-aggression into something positive. He was the grumpy old man of Team GB. It is almost as if no one else feels the need to let their tensions boil over when they have such a vocal advocate in Bellamy.
I was also struck by something the commentators noted in the final group match. In an interview, Bellamy claimed he ate lunch in the Olympic village every day with a different athlete from around the globe.
This is a man who is well aware of the ticking clock. He soaked up every minute of the experience while basking in the ambassadorial role afforded him. Bellamy knows his place as well as his limitations. With that knowledge firmly in hand, he is maximizing both.
All of the above are qualities in desperately short supply on Merseyside. Thus, it must be Kopites’ hope that rumours of a possible Bellamy exit stay at the paltry Daily Mirror level, and go no further. The idea of letting a player in such outstanding form return to Cardiff at this juncture is profligate to say the least.
The first Europa League match should have done more than enough to illustrate the point.
Joe Cole clearly remains an injury risk, and an expensive one at that. Sterling showed signs of potential on the wing, but the idea that he is ready for regular minutes seems like wishful thinking. Finally, Stewart Downing played one of the most anonymous games ever seen from someone who found the back of the net in Belarus.
Outside of Luis Suarez, Bellamy remains the most potent wide forward at Brendan Rodgers’ disposal. The respective exits of Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez only bring that truth into starker relief.
Liverpool needs the feisty Welshman. His talent, composure and leadership are all required on Merseyside for at least one more campaign.
The younger Welshman is the unassuming boiler room behind Great Britain’s play. He exudes a composure that is perhaps even more striking than that of Bellamy given his relative age.
Pearce had him playing the holding midfield position behind Tom Cleverley and Aaron Ramsey. Allen provides that essential component in any 4-3-3: a central player who is tireless in his movement off of the ball.
While the rest of his teammates push and prod, Allen is the ever-available outlet. He exists as an essential confidence builder in the back of his teammates’ collective psyche. The Welshman is there when needed, either for a short pass, or the saving tackle.
In addition, Allen is capable of putting in the adept long ball forward when needed. Yet, those skills have not been as regularly called upon this summer. While he occupies a more creative role for Swansea, Allen basically played the role of Leon Britton for the Olympic outfit.
On aggregate, he was the necessary third piece to an outstanding midfield triangle. That much is a sight for sore eyes on the British continent. Roy Hodgson will no doubt rue the fact that only Cleverley is at his disposal for future English selection. Yet, Liverpool does not have to.
In signing Allen, Rodgers would solve two major problems:
First, as discussed in an earlier article, the Reds are in desperate need of depth behind Lucas in defensive midfield. Have a look at Jay Spearing’s performance in Belarus for further confirmation on that point. Allen’s Olympic play proves he can play this position.
Second, Allen has shown for Swansea that he is capable of giving Jordan Henderson a run for the more central slot.
This is true for a few reasons. Henderson did not look overly confident against Gomel. At the least, he needs some competition to drive on his maturation as a starter.
Further, it was apparent once Lucas came on, that Gerrard likes having extra support to enable his runs forward. With Lucas and Spearing playing together, both capable of defending in the absence of Gerrard, the offense seemed to function to greater effect. Thus, Allen could give the manager an added dimension without requiring the inclusion of Spearing.
In the end, both Bellamy and Allen deserve a place at Anfield. It is arguable in each case, however, both could conceivably start given the current squad level. Hopefully, as Rodgers continues to adjust his roster, he keeps both of these promising Olympians at the forefront of his mind.