Midfielder Tom Cleverley has his very own Olympic legacy – a place in the England team.
While the debate about Great Britain’s female football participation in future Games continues, it has already been confirmed the men’s team was a one-off experiment for London 2012 that will not be repeated.
Few will mourn its passing into history, but Cleverley has good reason to be thankful for its existence. He believes it gave him the leg up required to claim a place in the international arena.
“The Olympics were very important for me,” said the Manchester United player. “It was perfect for me to get some games and play competitive matches on a big stage. Roy Hodgson was at a couple of the games, I was in good form and I have managed to carry that on into the season.”
Not that Cleverley is taking anything for granted ahead of tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier with Poland in Warsaw.
He might have started all four games for England this season but it is the first time Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney have both been available, so even though Frank Lampard is missing with a calf problem, starting berths are at a premium.
“I am really proud to have started all four games so far,” Cleverley said. “I am always happy to represent my country, but I have a bit more hard work ahead of me before I become established. There are plenty of top class midfielders in the Premier League.”
In addition to Lampard, Ryan Bertrand was also ruled out yesterday, having failed to overcome the viral infection that prevented him from training following his late call-up last week.
It was his reaction to that illness being described as a sore throat that led to a four-letter riposte on Twitter that drew more attention to himself.
Bertrand does not appear to have felt the hassle was worth it as the account has been deleted over the weekend.
It is the kind of exchange Rooney has managed to avoid, and he showed greater maturity than many people give him credit for when he led England to their 5-0 win over San Marino on Friday.
After that game, manager Hodgson was moved to suggest Rooney would succeed Gerrard as England captain, and having benefited from working with the 26-year-old at Old Trafford, Cleverley would have no problem if his United team-mate inherited the armband on a full-time basis.
“Wayne has all the attributes to be a good captain,” said Cleverley.
“He is a winner. You could tell that before the game because he was quite vocal in the dressing room. I am not the manager but I would certainly be happy playing under a captain like Wayne Rooney. He is a good leader.”
England are likely to show a number of changes from Friday’s team, with potentially only Phil Jagielka keeping his place. Glen Johnson will almost certainly return from suspension and there is no need to save Joleon Lescott from another booking that will rule him out of England’s next competitive game, as that is the return fixture against San Marino next March. It leaves only the choice about whether to keep faith with Leighton Baines, who has also started all four England games this season, or Ashley Cole, who would be winning his 99th cap.
“We are really lucky to have some great left-backs in this country,” said Cleverley. “Baines and Ashley Cole are both fantastic players.”