Jack & The Olympics: Time For That Chapter To Be Closed
Having seen a key player miss a large portion of a season through injury, the last thing that Arsène will want to do is trust Stuart Pearce with another. The friction caused by the wrangling over Theo Walcott is in danger of being repeated over Jack Wilshere. That the youngster has missed this season is not down entirely to England; Wenger pursued his policy of including him even when his own GPS statistics urged caution. Capello and Pearce continued to utilise him even also. There is a collective responsibility for this that shows little chance of underpinning any commonsense approach for the future.
Pearce has too much power in the national game at the moment. His role as England caretaker should preclude his role with TeamGB for the coming Olympic Games. Any words he speaks now in the latter capacity carry an undercurrent of the former. With Spurs demise and fall from Grace, there is no guarantee that Redknapp will now be named for the England role permanently, despite the desire of David Bernstein that this should happen. With Roy Hodgson and perhaps Alan Pardew, as the only real English contenders for the role in the Premier League, Pearce being appointed to the national team on a full-time basis cannot be ruled out.
As such, his observations yesterday carry an unspoken threat; annoy me over this and your international career may be impacted. Even worse, he misjudges the mood of the nation over the Olympic Football Tournament; I have seen little enthusiasm for TeamGB. To most people, it is a contrived entity, created to save face in front of the world. The unseemly bickering between the Home FAs has done nothing to enhance the reputation of TeamGB FC.
Equally telling players that this is ‘the chance of a lifetime‘ is utterly ludicrous. The Olympics mean nothing in footballing terms; TeamGB even less. Unless of course, Pearce is advocating the dissolution of the Home FAs to be replaced by Team GB on the world stage which marks a betrayal of his employers that would make a Shakespearian villain blanche.
Pearce is antagonising matters further with public utterances. Speaking of his inclusion of Jack Wilshere in his nominal squad, the caretaker incumbent noted,
We’re in constant contact with Arsenal and we’ll see how this one rides. But, will any manager get a veto over who I select? Of course not.
We would obviously let them know if their players are in contention and the dates they would need to be made available.
This is the fundamental flaw in the process. Fifa bought into Olympic football on the basis of it being an Under-23 tournament and in that sense it is fulfilling its obligations. There are several flaws, most notably in the timing coinciding with continental competitions. Add into that the younger age of internationals and the feasibility becomes more strained.
In ordering clubs to release players, Fifa underline why they are at continual loggerheads with the clubs. They have not dropped the August international friendlies from the calendar once more undermining their arguments that they care about players. In that they are no different from the clubs; money is king and the players count for nothing. Until they are injured.
And this is where Wilshere has his responsibility. Would he be so enamoured at the prospect of the Olympics if it were not being held in England? Which it essentially is. No, he would not; the issue would not even be arising since Team GB FC‘s existence is that contrived. In my eyes, David Seaman hit the nail squarely on the head; the Olympics are not for professional footballers.
Further, having been absent for over a season through injury, Wilshere has a duty of care to his employers that demands he think very long and hard about what is good for his long-term career. Is being carried on a wave of jingoism really that important? Does he really care what the readers letters in The Daily Mail say? Or would he be better to declare himself unavailable for the tournament? Personally I believe he must remain at the club for his return to fitness to be properly monitored.
Time for Jack to put a stop to this farce and put Pearce politely but firmly, in his place. He owes that much to the club.