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BARRY LANDY

Features, articles and opinions on football’s biggest stories | www.downinthebox.com

Bale absence has a familiar stench of contrived withdrawal On route to captaining Team GB’s football team at London 2012, Ryan Giggs’ career has redefined illustriousness, in terms of personal longevity and medal hauls. That the Welshman has had to endure 21 years without barely a sniff of international tournament football is not lost on anyone, not less coach Stuart Pearce who named the Manchester United stalwart as captain, his inclusion seemingly never in doubt. Gareth Bale’s withdrawal from selection contention for Pearce’s Olympic ensemble was an undoubted blow, the winger the outstanding non-English British talent in a generation. A back injury appeared to curtail the Tottenham man’s chances and considering Bale, once clad in the royal blue, white and red colours of the new strip, had already spoke of his enthusiasm for the tournament, a physical ill seemed all that could stand in the way of his involvement. What a fillip his addition to the side would have been, with the greatest respect to good players such as Daniel Sturridge. On Tuesday night, the very fears that Bale would miss the Games were allayed when he played and scored against LA Galaxy on his club’s pre-season American jaunt. Spurs were the benefactors of a very speedy recovery but the player himself has been conspicuously quiet on seeing his prospects of playing on the international stage ended. If the prospect of the Wales international playing at a rare international tournament wasn’t enough to stir the loins of young master Bale, one wonders what would be.

Passing up such an opportunity only serves to highlight the strange relationship between modern footballers at the top of their club game and international football. Either he holds great confidence in the ability of his young Wales team or is foolishly flippant about his international career. One columnist last week claimed Bale felt, “more answerable to a club that could employ him for a decade than a one-off project that will only last a few weeks. That makes him a realist in most people’s eyes.” Perhaps and there is no dispute that outside influences played a part in his decision to not push his Olympic charge to within the realm of discord at club level. Bale’s presence in America with a Luka Modric-less Spurs is one with ambassadorial and commercial interests to the fore. By that logic though, it is little wonder his presence with Wales isn’t downsized considerably, their constant failure to trouble finals presumably incomparable to Spurs’ domestic and European quests.

Gareth Bale whose withdrawal from Team GB has caused a media stir

Tottenham’s initial response to criticisms of Bale’s involvement was no more than a fitness timeline. Their later statement claimed the player was, “at no time made unavailable for selection.” Not officially, that would have caused quite a stir. By picking up an injury with an indefinite recovery time and subsequently recuperating with time to spare ahead of the Games is bound to raise doubts about legitimacy or at least seriousness of the injury. His absence stinks of contrivance, which is a shame for most parties. Devil’s advocates will suggest Bale was fit enough for friendly participation but not a major tournament. Tell that to Galaxy’s players, out to show the detractors what they and their league had to offer. Tell that too, to Charlie Adam, Bale’s assailant once again on Saturday night. www.cu-fc.com

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Derby County 2012/13