Should Richards Be Allowed to play his part?

Team GB's Micah RichardsAs the nation recovers from the disappointing news that David Beckham will not be appearing for Team GB at this summer’s Olympics, focus shifts toward the players who will be representing the side at London 2012.

Beckham’s omission has been a hot topic of conversation since Stuart Pearce announced his 18 man squad but while the LA Galaxy midfielder’s role in bringing the Games to the capital has been controversially overlooked, the news has overshadowed the fact that Micah Richards has been selected ahead of the former England captain. The Manchester City defender was not picked by Roy Hodgson for England’s Euro 2012 campaign but was offered a place on the standby list which he refused to accept. Pearce insists the selection of Richards is due to a lack of defensive options in the squad but given his decision to reject England, should Richards really be considered for other forms of International football?

It’s a difficult to understand what motivates a clearly talented footballer to turn his back on his nation. Some believe his behaviour is unpatriotic and should not be rewarded while others feel he has every right to ignore the national team because they’ve overlooked him countless times during his fledgling career. Pearce, a passionate performer for the Three Lions himself,  has tried to bypass the Beckham controversy by calling upon his former defender for ‘tactical reasons’ but Richards’ unprofessional antics have raised separate concerns over his character. The City starlet insists as soon as he knew he would not be travelling to Poland and Ukraine, he set his heart on representing Team GB but questions still remain over how the defender knew to reject England’s standby list in advance, despite telling the Independent he was proud to be selected.

“I didn’t get picked in the [England] team and once I wasn’t picked in the squad this chance with GB came around and I wanted to go to the Games. It is always an honour to represent your country. It’s not just England, it’s GB, so it’s something new.”

There’s little to suggest Richards choose to avoid the standby list so he could represent Team GB instead. He may have conveniently found an alternative tournament but he certainly didn’t use foresight when making his choice. His critics insist it’s more likely he was unwilling to wait around on the off chance he may be involved and was more focused on recuperating ahead of a busy season at City. This may be understandable given the competition for places at the Etihad Stadium but now he’s playing in the Olympics so any preparations for the Premier League season must be put on the back burner anyway. It’s becoming more and more clear that Richards would’ve been willing to play in either International tournament so why did he reject England before he knew of his Olympic selection?

Many believe his lack of loyalty stems from being ignored by the national team many times and that perhaps his patience is wearing thin. As one of the best English right backs around his place in the squad has often been filled by less deserving players so it must be difficult to show passion for a cause that perennially rejects him. Despite suffering a dip in form after initially bursting onto the scene, he’s since played an integral role in a title winning side and can understandably feel aggrieved not have been included on merit.

While it’s certainly fair that he may feel unwilling to commit, the majority of fans disapprove when players don’t treat England as the pinnacle of their profession. Considering the amount of players shunned for their disloyalty it’s seems bizarre that Richards’ behaviour is flying so low under fans’ radars. It is because Beckham’s omission is bigger news or do fans feel less aggrieved when it relates to Team GB instead of England?

The history books show that when Chris Sutton refused to play for England B he never represented his country again while Jamie Carragher was criticised for growing tired of being an International squad player and choosing to focus on his domestic career. It seems hypocritical that these players were roundly ostracised for their behaviour and yet Richards has mainly avoided the nation’s discontent. At the tender age of 24, he must continue to harbour International aspirations so his actions are not really in keeping with Carragher’s more understandable frustrations. Even if he felt it necessary to make a stand after a handful of snubs, he was offered a standby list olive branch by the FA and regardless of his principles, should really have taken it if he ever wants to represent the national team again.

The definitive evidence going in Richards’ favour is the fact he hasn’t rejected Team GB. His actions may mean he’ll never play for England again but until he refuses to represent Great Britain, his slate with the Olympic committee will remain clean. It’s not Pearce’s responsibility to omit players out of hand so even if the City defender’s actions paint a disloyal picture, he’s trusted by his manager as the most experienced defender available and will be given a chance regardless of his behaviour.

Do you think Richards should be allowed to play for Team GB? Should he have been chosen ahead of David Beckham?

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