London: Jack Butland, Tom Cleverley and Daniel Sturridge showed at the Olympics that they are ready for extended involvement with England, according to Team GB coach Stuart Pearce.
England manager Roy Hodgson names his squad on Friday for the August 15 friendly against Italy and has indicated he will be picking a youthful party for the trip to Berne as he prepares for 2014 World Cup qualifying.
The uncapped Butland travelled to the European Championship finals, Cleverley has been in past squads but never featured while Sturridge has been capped twice. Steven Caulker is another contender.
Great Britain had an ultimately disappointing time at the Olympics, losing 5-4 on penalties to South Korea in the quarter-finals on Saturday night following a 1-1 draw after extra time, but some members of Pearce’s squad did enhance their reputations.
“The way Cleverley can handle the ball and with Sturridge’s eye for goal, they’re two individuals who can be in and around the senior England team,’’ said Pearce. “They’ve both benefited from this tournament and they’ll both go back to their clubs with something to prove.
“In two years’ time, the likes of Butland or Sturridge could be in Rio taking a penalty or facing a penalty, so there’s that experience straightaway. It’s been a great experience for all of us and for the likes of Steven Caulker and Tom Cleverley, they’ve put themselves in the shop window, both for their club and for their country.”
Yet the experience highlighted enduring domestic weaknesses, including a failure from the spot (with Sturridge missing in the shoot-out) and occasionally giving the ball away cheaply.
Great Britain’s captain, Ryan Giggs, was keen to accentuate the positive, praising his fellow Welshman Joe Allen as “such a talented player” and arguing that the Olympic experience would help him as a coach in the future.
“I can take lots of things from it,” said Giggs. “Stuart was kind enough to let me sit in on some of the meetings.”
Giggs voiced the desire of the squad for Great Britain to be represented in the football competition at the Rio Olympics of 2016.
“I would want players, whether they be mine or any other young player, to experience what I have experienced: the whole Olympic attitude and coming up against good, organised teams. It can only be good for players’ development and experience.
“It is going to be hard and there are a lot of sceptics out there but if you asked all the players and staff, they would give you the same answer.”
They want the Team GB experiment to continue. Footballing politics and the crowded international calendar will preclude that.