Team GB: What are their chances at the Olympics?

With the current campaign over, all eyes are turning to the summer’s international tournaments to fill the off-season void. Euro 2012 comes first in June, before the exciting prospect of Team GB competing for gold at the Olympics. With some of the traditionally bigger nations not present at the competition in London, the home representation will be one of the favourites to claim gold medals, but who will be playing and can they go all the way?

Firstly it should be stated that Team GB manager Stuart Pearce has been in contact with potential players about their interest in competing at the games, with a shortlist of a whopping 80 players being compiled. The squad must be completely 23 years old or under, with leeway for three overage players. Team GB will be comprised of athletes from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and any player who represents England at Euro 2012 will not be considered.

With such a wide span of players to pick from, predicting the Team GB squad is difficult, but there are a number of players who have been mentioned and are seemingly eager to compete. David Beckham has been a high-profile name mentioned as a possible captain, however Pearce recently admitted that the LA Galaxy midfielder’s inclusion will be decided on form and fitness. Welsh midfielders Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have both been raised as possible candidates for inclusion, and the north London duo would add much-needed quality to the side. From Northern Ireland, Manchester United defender Jonny Evans had been touted to be included but this has been ruled out by the Red Devils, whilst the likes of Barry Bannan and Grant Hanley are potential Scottish inclusions.

The majority of the squad will be comprised of English players, with youngsters on the verge of the senior squad for Euro 2012 potentially taking part. Jack Wilshere has not been ruled out by Pearce in playing, despite the Arsenal man’s long-term injury concerns. The likes of Daniel Sturridge, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tom Cleverley will wait to see if they are needed in Ukraine and Poland, and if not could feature. Finally, Jack Rodwell has been ruled out of Euro 2012 through injury, but could well play in the games as part of his rehabilitation and recovery. With Pearce as manager, former or current England under-21 players could make up a bulk of the 18-man squad.

But can they lift the gold? One of he factors working against the side will be lack of preparation time, and the fact that most of the players will never have played together. However, along with Spain and Brazil, Team GB will be one of the frontrunners for victory, as the rest of the 16 teams seem beatable on paper. Team GB have been drawn in Group A alongside Senegal, Uruguay and the United Arab Emirates, with their first game against the African nation on July 26th.

All-in-all, glory for Team GB at the Olympics would be a real milestone for the game in the United Kingdom, and an excellent collective and personal achievement for the players. With a raft of Premier League talent likely to make up the squad, there is no reason why the hosts will not celebrate glory in the final on August 11th.

Published – 2012 Olympics Blog

What does 2011/12 hold for Daniel Sturridge?

So, if Jones is worth £16.5 million and Henderson £20 million, how much is Daniel Sturridge worth?

With the transfer window well and truly open, ’tis the season for ludicrous over payment. Phil Jones’ 37 senior side appearances for Blackburn and Jordan Henderson’s four Sunderland career goals gave the England under 21 internationals a combined value of £36.5million, which was happily paid by Manchester United and Liverpool. No doubt both players are talented and full of potential, but an overpayment none the less.

It is painfully clear that young English talent is much vaunted and that top flight clubs will pay top dollar to ascertain it. The transfers of Jones and Henderson will have been music to the ears of Everton boss David Moyes, who can now pick a number out of the air and slap it on Jack Rodwell’s forehead, for United and all other potential suitors to match if they want the 20-year-old’s services.

But what of their international compatriot Daniel Sturridge? The Chelsea frontman’s club future hangs in the balance, as after a successful loan spell with Bolton he has returned to Stamford Bridge in search of the big time. Realistically, as talented as the former Manchester City forward is (and he is), his chances of first team football are going to be extremely limited, just like before he went to the Reebok Stadium.

With Didier Drogba struggling to get a game due to Fernando Torres, Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka, what chance does Sturridge have? Add to this the inevitable signings that Mr Abramovich and the eventual new coach will bring to the club, which will more than likely include more attacking talent from the four corners of the globe, and the English born youngster will once more be on the outskirts.

So what are his options? He could stay and fight for a first team spot, but this is a long, arduous and frustrating journey; young, talented players need regular first team football to evolve, and he risks his career going down the same path as Shaun Wright Phillips out of pure stubbornness. Another loan move looks likely, and Owen Coyle and every other manager outside of the top six will be holding their hands up shouting ‘pick me!’ in a schoolboy’s voice if Chelsea decide to go down this route. However, if Sturridge decides he wants to leave the London club and seek a new employer, the fee that Chelsea would likely charge is of real interest.

The Birmingham born forward exudes quality. He has represented England at youth level from under-16′s all the way up to his current participation in the under-21 Championships in Denmark. He scored eight goals in twelve games for a faltering Bolton side at the end of last season, and seemingly gets better with the more time he spends on the pitch.

Strikers generally command higher transfer fees than any other position, thus the criteria above would suggest that in today’s market he is worth more than Henderson, and more than £20 million. Andy Carroll is worth £35 million apparently, so £20 million+ seems about right. Chelsea would be increasingly reluctant to sell him to a top six side, in which case he is gazumped as none of the other teams have £20 million to throw about like the executives at Anfield and Old Trafford.

Daniel Sturridge will not and cannot leave Chelsea permanently this summer due to the ludicrous nature of the English transfer market currently, and instead of maturing into a player capable of being included in Fabio Capello’s 2012 European Championships squad, may face the prospect of heading the line for the Stamford Bridge reserve side in 2011/12.

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Three Young Midfielders For Manchester United’s Summer Shopping List

Despite Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Everton that sees them move closer to a 19th league title (and Sir Alex Ferguson’s 12th Premier League title), fans have one eye on potential new recruits when the transfer window re-opens in the summer.

With Paul Scholes and the evergreen Ryan Giggs still having a part to play in the club’s future but not getting any younger and Owen Hargreaves crocked, Fergie will look to add some youthful exuberance to his midfield, with a number of transfer rumours turning into solid transfer targets.

The first and well publicised potential United target is Aston Villa’s Ashley Young. The ex-Watford winger has impressed over the last two seasons and is now seemingly a mainstay in the England team, wrestling the right wing jersey away from fellow speedster Aaron Lennon. With Gerard Houiller’s side having a difficult season and Young maturing as a player, it is only natural that the 25 year old will look to further his career and take the step up to a bigger club.

The Red Devils will not be alone in admiring Young’s qualities of speed, delivery and versatility, and Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham have all been linked with a move for the England man. Young has reportedly delayed on signing a new contract at Villa Park, but won’t come cheap as a price tag of £25 million has been touted.

Everton’s Jack Rodwell is another player who has been making Premier League news headlines this season this year, with the 20 year old continuing to progress over the 2010/11 season at Goodison. The England under 21 midfielder has been primarily deployed as a holding player for David Moyes side, but the second half of the season has seen Rodwell make additional strides forward and add attacking impetus to his play. The Merseyside club are financially unstable and may look to cash in on their young starlet, with Manchester United the destination of choice for the future England international.

Borussia Dortmund have emulated the Champions League winning side of 1997 this season and taken the Bundesliga by storm with their attacking and enterprising brand of football; one of their key men Nuri Sahin has refused to comment on his future this week and is being linked with a move away from Signal Iduna Park. The 22 year old has scored six goals and set up nine with assists in his 30 games this season, and adds a guile and creativity to Die Borussen’s side.

The German born Turkey international has a deft left foot and with a reported release clause in his contract of only €6 million, Sahin could be one of the buys of the season if United can wrestle his signature away from Real Madrid and Inter.

The three players all bring contrasting qualities to the table, and Young’s speed, Rodwell’s energy and Sahin’s passing are sure to be in big demand come June. All would fit in well at Old Trafford, but the most likely recruit is Rodwell as he has all the raw attributes to be a top player given time and direction at Carrington.

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