Ryan Giggs or Craig Bellamy set to captain Team GB
RYAN GIGGS will battle it out with Craig Bellamy to be named Team GB captain after being confirmed as part of a five-strong Welsh contingent urged to go for Olympic gold.
The former Wales leaders were both named as part of the final squad selected by Stuart Pearce for the controversial combined Home Nations side for London 2012.
And they joined Swansea City pair Joe Allen and Neil Taylor as well as the present owner of the Welsh armband, Aaron Ramsey, in the final 18.
Swansea have more players than anyone else to have made the final cut with Scott Sinclair (pictured right) also called up, while former loan star Steven Caulker is also on the list.
Pearce admitted the style of football at the Liberty was a big factor in the quartet’s inclusion.
But it is the Welsh-heavy feel to the squad – with only two other senior internationals named in the 18 – that catches the eye, Pearce paying tribute to the “determined mentality” of the Welsh players wanting to be involved.
Their participation is at odds to the Football Association of Wales’ stance against their involvement, and is part of a long-standing row over Team GB.
But Pearce suggested he had the backing of national boss Chris Coleman in selecting four of his current squad for the 17-day tournament that kicks off against Senegal on July 26, confirming only injury stopped Gareth Bale making it more.
He claimed to be unaware of supporter criticism of the combined team and, instead, urged all supporters to now look past nationality and see his selected players as “British Olympians.”
And he is set to ask one of his Welsh over-age players to be the figurehead as he looks to create history, with Giggs tipped to edge out Bellamy to the honour.
Manchester United great Giggs captained Wales for two years under John Toshack before his retirement in 2007, passing the armband to Bellamy who held the honour until opting out under Gary Speed. And Pearce confirmed he will look to his senior stars to lead the side – with serial medal-winner Giggs most likely to get the nod.
The former England defender refused to actually name his choice, claiming he wanted to speak to his candidate in person first.
But he said: “It will be a fantastic opportunity to captain this once in a lifetime team that we are putting together. The first time we come together I will sit him down and tell him.”
Pearce admitted he was satisfied with the choice of Giggs and Liverpool’s Bellamy as two of his three permitted over 23 players – controversially at the expense of England darling David Beckham.
But he did admit he was taking a risk on their fitness with the 38-year-old Giggs and 32-year-old Bellamy – with a history of injury issues – potentially playing six games in little more than a fortnight.
“It might be but it’s a big ask for all the players not just the over-age ones,” he said.
“This is going to be a scenario with the games coming thick and fast.
“The one thing you can guarantee with regard to those two individuals, they’re ultimate professionals.
“They know exactly their own bodies, they know exactly the preparation that is good for them .
“Craig had an outstanding season this year and I think he’s been one of Liverpool’s best players and in the centre of midfield and Ryan’s form has been outstanding.
“I’m more than happy with the three over-age selections I’ve picked in regard to that and I think they stand up to any scrutiny because of the seasons they’ve had in the Premier League.”
As seemingly does the inclusions of so many Swans for the same reason, Allen and Taylor joined by former England Under-21 winger Sinclair and centre-half Caulker who impressed so much on loan at the Liberty last year.
Pearce said: “Swansea are used to playing out from the back and we have a lot of good football technicians in this squad.”
Sinclair – who was thought to have replaced back-injury victim Bale in the final 18 – said: “I’m buzzing with the news. At 23, it was probably my only chance to represent Great Britain at the Olympics. I just made it, so I’m thrilled.
“It’s going to be an amazing experience, especially with the Olympics being in London. It’s a great honour and I can’t wait for the tournament to start.”