Belfast Telegraph

Brunt in running for Olympics football squad

By Graham Luney

Irish Football Association chiefs have confirmed they will respect Chris Brunt’s desire to pull on a GB jersey at this summer’s Olympic Games.

Brunt is in running for Olympics Squad game: Chris Brunt could make|GB teampresseye ifa won’t block his selectionIRISH Football Association chiefs have confirmed they will respect Chris Brunt’s desire to pull on a GB jersey at this summer’s Olympic Games.

The 27-year-old has made the golden list of 80 players selected by the Football Association as potential competitors in the tournament.

While Brunt has been capped 33 times for his country, it is his West Brom form that has captured the attention of GB coach Stuart Pearce.

His inclusion in the list of potential players, which has been slashed from 191, means there’s a strong chance he will feature for Team GB.

Three over-age players are allowed to make the squad for the Under-23 tournament.

And Brunt’s inclusion appears to be a snub to Manchester United star Jonny Evans (pictured).

The Newtownabbey man — who is 24 — has been in sensational form this season and his performances have even earned him the label of arguably the “best defender in Britain” according to his boss, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Pearce will make a further cut to his squad list by June, narrowing it down to 35 players, and the final 18-man squad will be announced on July 6.

The FA remain optimistic that non-English players like Brunt will accept the chance to play in the tournament if picked — despite opposition from the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh football associations.

The home associations are concerned that Team GB could pose a threat to their independence in terms of international football competitions.

The Irish FA have consistently outlined their opposition to the principle of the GB team, but they will respect the desire of any player to play in the Olympics.

“Our view hasn’t changed and while we are opposed to the GB team in principle, we understand that it’s a personal decision the players have to make,” said IFA president Jim Shaw. “I think the issue has more relevance to the English club sides as their players are potentially involved in the European Championships and then asked to perform at the Olympics.

“If Chris Brunt or another one of our players makes the list then we won’t make any attempt to influence their decision to participate in any way. It won’t affect our preparations for the World Cup qualifying campaign.”

Most notable among the potential team members is former England skipper David Beckham — set to turn 37 next month — and he's highly likely to feature as one of three over-age players.

But it’s easy to imagine some managers not being impressed at losing a significant number from their pre-season schedule.

The latest shortlist featured representatives from all four home nations as Brunt is joined by Gareth Bale, Craig Bellamy and Steven Fletcher.

Arsenal's Jack Wilshere has been ruled out through injury but former Chelsea star Joe Cole, currently on loan at Lille, is amongst the potential over-age players, whilst Birmingham's Jack Butland, Chelsea's Josh McEachran and Crystal Palace's Nathaniel Clyne are amongst those who meet the Under-23 criteria.

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