British Olympic football coach Stuart Pearce opted for ruthlessness over sentiment by omitting David Beckham from his squad, denying the country’s most famous sportsman an ideal career swansong at the London Games he helped his home city win.
Facing a barrage of questions Monday at Wembley Stadium, Pearce said he considered only form and fitness for his final squad. And Beckham’s form wasn’t good enough.
“I don’t think there’s a football manager around who picks on sentiment,” said Pearce, who was grilled about the former England captain’s omission. “My opening gambit to all the players was there are no guarantees. They have to come through the door on form and form alone.”
Beckham, 37, had been hoping to be part of the first British football squad at the Olympics since 1960.
Pearce, now public enemy No. 1 among Beckham’s millions of fans and reportedly some top sports officials, said he knew he would have to stand by his decision.
Becks was told by Pearce on Thursday night that he wasn’t in the final 18-man squad, with the three over-age places allowed at the Olympic tournament instead going to Beckham’s former teammate, Ryan Giggs of Manchester United, Liverpool forward Craig Bellamy and Manchester City defender Micah Richards.
Although Beckham backed Pearce’s squad in a statement, the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder was inconsolable at being overlooked.
Beckham was “very disappointed” when he told him in a telephone call, Pearce said. He was the first of the players cut from the initial 35-man group to be told the bad news.
“I know he had a real burning passion to be part of this squad. I understand that. I thought it was right and proper that he heard from me directly,” Pearce said.
There also was no place on the team’s backroom staff for Beckham, but he could have a role with the wider British Olympic team.