The door is still narrowly open for David Beckham to be involved in the Olympic Games. Team GB manager Stuart Pearce said overnight he "fully expects" Beckham to be available for his four-man standby list for the Games.
Pearce surprised many by not choosing Beckham in his 18-man squad, unveiled yesterday, but fiercely defended his decision to leave him out. "I'm a football man, I pick solely on football ability," said Pearce, who insisted that he would not have taken the manager's job if there had been any pressure from above to select the man so important to London winning the bid.
"If [FA chairman David Bernstein] had said there were certain individuals who had to be in the squad," Pearce said, "I probably wouldn't have taken the job, and I don't know any manager worth his salt who would. Right through the whole process I've had carte blanche [regarding selection]."
When asked why there were only English and Welsh players in his squad, Pearce again insisted that he had selected on merit alone. "I'm not picking on personality," he said, "I'm not picking on ticket sales and I'm certainly not picking on nationality."
Pearce said his decision not to take Beckham as one of his three overage players, and to pick Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards instead, had been due to shortages in certain positions and the ability of his chosen overage players to fill those gaps.
"It was probably the absences of one or two individuals in certain other positions," Pearce explained at Wembley yesterday. "I had to look at the under-age players and fit them into the system, and the availability of those players, and then look at the squad as an overview and say: 'Where are we short and in what positions?"'
An injury to Giggs, Bellamy or Richards could lead to Beckham joining the 18-man squad. A four-man standby list will be confirmed on Friday, but Team GB can change that up until the day before their first game against Senegal on 25 July. The stand-by list can include any player who was on the initial long-list of 35 players who did not make the final squad.
While Pearce said he had not yet been able to discuss the possibility of putting Beckham on the standby list, he was very confident the 37-year-old former England captain would be happy to be called upon if needed.
"I fully expect him to sign up to that and that not be a problem," Pearce said. "Because I know David as an individual and I know how passionate he is to even have a slim chance of being a part of [the Games]."
Even if Beckham does not make the standby list, he may still be found a role this summer. Team GB chef de mission Andy Hunt said: "I hope in some way he will have some association with the Games and potentially the broader team."
Pearce added that there was no room for Beckham on his coaching staff for the tournament.
- THE INDEPENDENT