FFT picks this year's Team GB... in 2009
Three years ago, FourFourTwo magazine predicted a 15-man Team GB squad for a faraway football tournament at the 2012 London Olympics. At the time, it was being suggested by some parties that the team should be made up only of English players, to which we said "Pah!" Ã¢ÂÂ and picked young players from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well.
We stuck to the under-23 rule and selected no overage players, to keep things interesting. Were we bang on the money? Not quite, but given we were trying to foresee the futures of a bunch of teenagers, we don't think we did too badly...
GoalkeeperJason SteeleThe Middlesbrough graduate, 18, played a key role for the England under-17 side that reached the final of Euro 2007 and is now first choice for the under-19s as well as having captained the side. Relegation may mean more first-team opportunities at the Riverside.Steele made the squad as an understudy to Jack Butland, who was 16 when this article was written.
Right-backChris GunterA regular for Wales under John Toshack, if not for Spurs under Harry Redknapp, the 19-year-old is one of several Welsh youngsters who should be an established Premier League performer before too long. Versatile too.Gunter wasn't picked by Stuart Pearce, but has 37 caps to his name having just turned 23 and recently signed for Premier League side Reading.
Centre-backCraig CathcartA graduate of Manchester UnitedÃ¢ÂÂs School of Excellence in Belfast, Cathcart was only 17 when he started playing for Northern IrelandÃ¢ÂÂs under-21s, and has already been called into Nigel WorthingtonÃ¢ÂÂs senior squad. The tall, ball-playing defender impressed on loan at Antwerp in 2007, and spent last season at Plymouth. Expect to see him in the Carling Cup, at least, for United next season.The defender was perhaps the closest Northern Ireland came to having a Team GB football representative, but didn't make the cut.
Centre-backJames TomkinsAlready a West Ham regular under Gianfranco Zola, the 20-year-old Ã¢ÂÂ¨has been compared to a young Rio Ferdinand thanks to his composure Ã¢ÂÂ¨and eye for a pass. Capped at every England youth level, he starred as Ã¢ÂÂ¨the under-19s reached the European Championships in 2008 and is now Ã¢ÂÂ¨a regular with the under-21s.After an impressive season for West Ham, Tomkins was selected for Team GB as first-choice centre-back.
Left-backKieran GibbsA marauding Arsenal Ã¢ÂÂ¨left-back in the same mould as Sylvinho, Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy, Gibbs looks set to challenge the latter as first-choice at the Emirates, and may well succeed Cole as EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs left-back. Already Ã¢ÂÂ¨a regular for the U21s at 19, he will Ã¢ÂÂ¨only improve over the next three years.The full-back was tipped for inclusion, but lost out to Welshman Neil Taylor, who was playing for non-league Wrexham in 2009.
Right midfieldTheo Walcott Already proved himself for England after a tough introduction, the Arsenal winger (or striker) would give the team a sprinkling of stardust and Ã¢ÂÂ by 2012 Ã¢ÂÂ bags of Champions League and international experience. Captain Theo, anyone?No Ã¢ÂÂ because Walcott had already played in an international tournament this summer, for England at Euro 2012.
Centre midfieldJack RodwellRodwell is the youngest player to represent Everton Ã¢ÂÂ¨in Europe and is no stranger to international competition. He captained England under-16s to the Victory Shield in 2006, and ended up Ã¢ÂÂ¨a regular in EvertonÃ¢ÂÂs midfield last season. Tall, elegant and only just 18.The 21-year-old was so hotly tipped for the Team GB squad that he modelled the kit, but injury prevented his involvement.
Centre midfieldAaron RamseyAfter playing for Cardiff in the 2008 FA Cup Final aged just 17, Ramsey joined Arsenal for ÃÂ£5m and has looked perfectly at home in his 22 appearances so far. Primarily a playmaker, Ramsey, 18, has already established himself in the full Wales team after starring for the under-21s. The future looks bright.The midfielder is a regular starter for Stuart Pearce at the London Olympics and captains the Welsh adult side.
Left midfieldGareth BaleAfter a troubled and injury-hit first two seasons at Spurs, it is easy to forget that Bale is not yet 20 years old, having burst onto the scene at just 16 as WalesÃ¢ÂÂ youngest ever player. Can play in defence or midfield, where he can put his dribbling skills and lethal left foot to devastating use. Also a dead-ball specialist.Bale also modelled the kit and was expected to play, but withdrew with a back injury Ã¢ÂÂ before appearing in America, playing for Spurs.
StrikerJohn FleckA former Scotland under-16 and under-17 captain, FleckÃ¢ÂÂs prodigious talent, shooting power and stamina have drawn comparisons with Wayne Rooney. The nephew of RangersÃ¢ÂÂ legendary striker Robert Fleck, he Ã¢ÂÂ¨has already opened his first-team goalscoring account at Ibrox and is Ã¢ÂÂ¨a regular at Scotland under-21 level. Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs scary to see how good he is,Ã¢ÂÂ says team-mate Steven Whittaker.The young Scotsman was our biggest punt, and he's yet to win a full international cap Ã¢ÂÂ but he is only 20 years of age. Fleck is now playing for Coventry, having left Rangers.
StrikerDanny WelbeckThe versatile Manchester United attacker has played at every England youth level and is being courted by Ghana to play for them. However, he is likely to stay loyal to the land of his birth having already been tipped for full England honours. Languid and skilful, and deceptively fast, Welbeck scored on his Premier League debut in November, shortly before his 18th birthday.21-year-old Welbeck led the line for England at Euro 2012 after an incredible rise to stardom, so was unofficially ineligible to play for Team GB at the Olympics.
ManagerDavid BeckhamAs part of GBÃ¢ÂÂs successful 2012 bid team, Becks will want to be involved in the Games themselves. And who better Ã¢ÂÂ¨to inspire a team full of players who would have grown up watching him?...OK, we weren't even close with this one.
Substitutes Jack CollisonThe Welsh Michael Carrick? West Ham seem to think so. Already a regular under Gianfranco Zola at just 20.No Olympic involvement for Collison, but he will be playing Premier League football in the new season with the Hammers.
Jack WilshereAn Arsenal first-team debutant in September, aged just 16, Englishman Wilshere will be waving his magic wand of a left foot on a regular basis by 2012.Wilshere improved so fast that he would have carried England's Euro 2012 hopes but for a long-term injury, which also kept him out of the Olympics.
Daniel SturridgeA targetman and goalscorer rolled into one, the big, pacy striker looks to have Ã¢ÂÂ¨a bright future at the top level, although whether that will come at his first club Manchester City remains to be seen. Ã¢ÂÂ¨An England regular at youth level.Sturridge is part of the Euro 2012 squad, and scored against UAE with a delightful chip.