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Life in the old dogs yet

ESPN staff
October 21, 2011
A decade on from this historic moment, David Beckham still has the X factor © Getty Images

With Stuart Pearce confirmed as coach of the Great Britain team at London 2012, we get all misty-eyed and suggest a few names - all of them pretty unfashionable; some more than others - who deserve a shot at one of the three spots up for grabs for players over 23.

David Beckham
Stuart Pearce has told Beckham his place at the London Olympics is far from guaranteed, leaving the former Three Lions captain to sweat on form and fitness prior to next summer's Games. However, you only have to dig out the tape of the footballer-cum-model-cum-politician sending England to the 2002 World Cup finals with an injury-time equaliser against Greece in 2001 to see why he's a shoo-in. A dead-ball specialist, Beckham can spend the majority of the match signing autographs and posing for photographs with sponsors before coming on in the dying minutes and nonchalantly knocking in a 25-yard free-kick to spark delirium.

Craig Bellamy
Bellamy's club career has seen him play in England, Scotland and Wales so he's almost deserving of a spot for his love of Great Britain alone. Don't let those 32-year-old legs fool you, the Welshman still has pace to burn and he loves nothing more than pulling out wide before scaring the life out of defenders with a mazy run towards goal. Known to speak his mind and wear his heart on his sleeve, Bellamy will fit right in with other choices and a certain 'Psycho'.

Ryan Giggs
His football may have taken a back seat in recent times but Giggs clearly still has the energy to play the game, and that's great news for Great Britain. Still capable of scoring, the Welshman tends to ply his trade in the middle of the park rather than his preferred position out on the wing. He may not be the flyer he once was but what he lacks in speed he makes up for with his intelligent play, hitting one-touch passes and setting the youngsters free with clever through-balls. Giggsy's achievements - particularly at club level - speak for themselves so why not give the Manchester United legend the chance to add to his bulging trophy cabinet before he hangs up his boots?

Robbie Fowler
One of the deadliest strikers of the past 20 years, the former king of the Kop was widely recognised by his fellow pros as the most gifted finisher of his generation. The semi-retired forward was only capped 26 times by his country and that doesn't seem anywhere near enough for a player of his talent. Fowler remains the only player to have scored 30-plus goals in his first three full seasons in England, which is something that is yet to be achieved in La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga. Form is temporary, class is permanent and age... age is but a number.

Robert Earnshaw
The diminutive striker's career has petered out a bit in recent years - but his name will echo in the corridors of history because of his tendency to bag hat-tricks. We're sure you will have heard this before, most likely at a pub quiz, but it bears repeating: Earnshaw is the only man to have scored a treble in the Premier League, Championship (or the equivalent), League One, League Two, FA Cup, League Cup and at international level (for Wales). Wouldn't it be great if that seemingly never-ending question could be extended so, just when the quizmaster thought he could come up for air, he had to add "and the Olympics"? The answer is yes.

Rory Delap
Just when Delap appeared destined to be remembered as a reliable but unremarkable pro, he catapulted himself into late-career stardom with his long-throw capability. The veteran's missile arm, which reinvented the long-throw wheel by delivering the ball at such a low trajectory, probably still has the Arsenal defence breaking out in cold sweats at night. Delap can be our secret weapon at the Olympics, trundling over to the ball innocuously, taking an age to wipe it with a towel - and then hurling a bullet at unsuspecting defences.

David Weir: still rocking after all these years © PA Photos

David Weir
Rangers defender Weir is a marvel of the modern game, still playing at the heart of Rangers' defence despite being 85 (41) years of age. Yes, he may be a bit slow - OK, very slow - but frankly we don't care, because he's old enough to have fathered most of the team, which is sure to keep all the young'uns in check, and it'll be funny to hear the commentators endlessly witter on about how "he's got that extra yard [of pace] in his head". He's got a few false teeth in his head too most likely, but we still want to see him hurling himself with boyish enthusiasm at Delap's throws.

Joey Barton
The combustible Barton is a fine player, although probably not quite good enough to break into England's squad for Euro 2012, given the midfield competition. Wouldn't it be a real shame if his straight-talking, now-you-listen-to-me-sonny style never has the chance to make itself heard on the global stage? He wouldn't allow anyone on the pitch to treat the matches like pre-season friendlies, and his confrontations with old "Psycho" Pearce in the dressing room would be worthy of a DVD in themselves. Also, given the critical way Barton has talked about Giggs' alleged off-pitch indiscretions, it'd be intriguing to see them lining up together in midfield.

David James
Veteran goalkeeper James has matured with dignity: from the bleach-blonde upstart who admitted his performances were suffering because of too much PlayStation, to the Observer columnist casting his eye over the game with a calm and analytical eye. The old sage deserves a chance to banish that "Calamity" nickname once and for all, and what better way than by effortlessly repelling the efforts of much younger men, while also offering crucial advice about the evils of too much FIFA 12?

Jimmy Bullard
The cheeky chappy of the team, Bullard would be both the joker and, if his impression of former Hull boss Phil Brown is anything to go by, the man to give his team-mates a good rollicking when things go wrong. Bullard may play the fool but on the pitch his energy is infectious and, with Beckham swanning about on the touchline until the closing stages of matches, he'll relish taking on the dead-ball duties.

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