It is fair to say there is not much optimism about the technical level of British football after England's one-dimensional displays at Euro 2012. But Manchester United's Tom Cleverley is one of the up-and-coming players who are determined to prove the future is bright. Sky Sports met the midfielder to talk about the Olympics, missing David Beckham, and the inspiration of Andrea Pirlo
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF. Last Updated: July 8, 2012 10:23pm
The 2011/12 season was supposed to be Tom Cleverley's time to announce himself on the biggest stages with Manchester United. Instead, the 22-year-old saw his campaign decimated by injuries and, despite returning to fitness, he was not even a squad member as his club dramatically lost the Premier League title to derby rivals Manchester City on the final day. Now, though, Cleverley is back. He has been included in Stuart Pearce's Team GB plans for the 2012 Olympics and is determined to use the London Games to keep looking forward.
What does the Olympics mean to you?
It is massive. You grow up watching the Olympics. You see the sprinting, the track and field, the rowing. You never really think of the football. But with it being in London, playing in the stadia, and obviously I am young, it is going to be a massive occasion. I am thrilled.
Have you watched the Olympics in the past? Are you a fan of the Games?
I have never really taken part in athletics. But I have always watched the Olympics, because it is such a big event. The ceremonies and everything, I love it. So it is good to be a part of it.
How can the Olympics help you to develop your personal career?
It is a world stage. So if I play well, hopefully, I can carry that form into my club season and maybe continue at international level with England. It is a great foundation to put my last season behind me after the injuries and what happened on the final day of the season. It would be a great way to kick-start again.
"We want to turn potential into finals and trophies. That is our job and that is what we have got to live up to"
Tom Cleverley Quotes of the week
Players such as Lionel Messi have shot to fame at previous Olympics. Did you watch them and see the impact?
Not Messi, personally. But Anderson came back one summer from the 2008 Olympics and said it was an unbelievable tournament and an unbelievable experience. It is something you want to be a part of. Listening to Anderson, he was excited. He is also excited that some of us are going. Anderson is the only person I have heard from first-hand about the Olympics. But, obviously, you see all the top players play at the Olympics.
In the wake of England's performance at Euro 2012, everything is doom and gloom about the technical standard of British football. How can a good performance from Team GB help to change opinions?
It would be the perfect way to bounce back after going out of the Euros. Even though it is Great Britain, there are some young English players in there who could play for England in the future. Hopefully we can win gold.
If you could win Olympic gold or the Premier League title in the next year, which would you choose?
That is a tough one (laughing). You are killing me there.
Given the amount of pessimism about the future of English football after the defeat by Italy, does it make you more determined to prove there are technically gifted players such as yourself coming through the international ranks?
I think that is the main thing we need to do in the next few years. We have always had potentially good players when they are growing up. Then, we seem to get knocked out at the quarter-final stage of competitions. But I am sure I am not alone, with the likes of Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and Jack Wilshere. There are about 20 players you could name. We want to turn potential into finals and trophies. That is our job and that is what we have got to live up to.
What did you think of the performance of Andrea Pirlo against England at Euro 2012?
Pirlo was a master-class. With me working so closely to Paul Scholes, it was the closest thing to Scholes I have ever seen. Pirlo was dictating the game from the centre circle. It was tough for our midfield to deal with that.
Are players like Pirlo an inspiration when you watch them? Are there elements of their game which you want to adopt?
Definitely. I am one for watching DVDs, videos and re-watching games. I do like watching performances like that of Pirlo.
Is the Olympics just the first step on the road to matching the technique of the likes of Italy and Spain?
Passing and moving is what my game is all about. I am not going to play like Italy. I am going to play like myself and, hopefully, that will be good enough to help my team win.
"David Beckham has had a great career and it would have been nice to play with him. Our paths never really crossed at Manchester United. But there are other great players in the squad as well"
Tom Cleverley Quotes of the week
You have had your injury problems. Are you feeling fit and healthy now as we look towards the Olympics and the new season?
I am feeling fit. I have been doing a bit of training in the off-season and I am 100 per cent working harder.
Stuart Pearce is Team GB's manager. You know him well from England Under 21s. What do you like about him as a coach?
I have worked with him a lot. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He is passionate about football and he knows the game very well. He is a technical coach. So I am looking forward to working with him for Team GB.
You have said before David Beckham is one of your heroes. Put yourself in his shoes. How would you feel if you were in the provisional Team GB squad and were then left out?
I do not know how he will feel, personally. But, obviously, I have been through setbacks before in my career and it is not nice. David Beckham has had a great career and it would have been nice to play with him. Our paths never really crossed at Manchester United. But there are other great players in the squad as well.
What do you think of the over-age rule at the Olympics? Should the Games be focused on Under 23 players or allow for the likes of Ryan Giggs?
I have not really thought about it, to be honest. That point had never really crossed my mind. I do not know why they do it. Obviously it is different to what you are used to. It is good that young players can learn from the likes of Giggs.
adidas have done a good job on the Team GB kit. But are you happy it means a Manchester United player wearing blue?
I know (laughing)... It is not sky blue.
As part of the Team GB kit bag, Tom Cleverley will receive his official adidas Team GB sweatbands available for £7 from shop.london2012.com