By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent
Water polo player Rob Parker has thrown his support behind David Beckham as the former Manchester United midfielder waits to find out if he has made Team GB’s football squad.
Coach Stuart Pearce is set to announce the historic team for the Olympic football tournament – the first Great Britain have entered since 1960.
David Beckham has made Pearce’s preliminary 35 man squad, but only 18 of these players will pull on the GB kit, with Old Trafford holding the men’s first game against Senegal on July 26.
Rob said: “He’s being involved in the Games right from the initial bid in 2005. He’s such a big ambassador for sport and a great role model for the younger players.”
“If he’s picked, the whole squad will look up to him. His talent and charisma will help bring the best out of every player.”
United fan Rob – whose own place at London 2012 was confirmed today – dismisses criticism from some quarters that Beckham isn’t good enough anymore and is only there for his ability to sell lucrative Team GB merchandise.
“He can definitely still take a decent free kick! He may not be competing at the top level anymore and he’s lost a bit of pace, but he can still produce big performances, and his presence will be a big boost for everyone involved,” he said.
Thousands of tickets remain unsold for the football tournament, with a sellout looking unlikely. Rob believes people are waiting to hear who will be in action before buying.
“Football is played in big stadiums – that’s a lot of tickets to sell. Commercially, Beckham would bring in sales – I don’t believe that’s why they will take him though,” he added.
It’s clear Rob is a fan of the former Manchester United no.7 – but with two other ‘over age’ (i.e. over 23) positions in the squad available, who else would he like to see included?
“It’d be nice to see Ryan Giggs involved. What about Paul Scholes to make it three United players? I’d love that. I think Scholes is what England needed in the Euros! Craig Bellamy is still a really good player too.”
He added: “It should definitely be the strongest squad that goes, not equal amounts from each country for the sake of it. The idea is to win, so the best players should go. Maybe the over age spots should be split up, that could be the way to make it fair.”
Other names reported to be being considered include Northern Irish midfielder Chris Brunt and Scottish forward Steven Fletcher.
The 24-year-old from Cheltenham will not be drawn on the team’s medal winning potential, or even if they will get out of their group, where they will face Sengeal, Uruguay and the United Arab Emirates.
“It’s hard to say how will we will do until we’ve seen the squads. Senegal and Uruguay both have quality over age players they can call on. I hope we will do well, but I’m an Englishman – I’m realistic!”
Team GB – with or without Beckham – kick off their tournament against Senegal on 26 July. Tickets are available via www.tickets.london2012.com