Football : England first for Forest's Pearce

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The Independent Online
Stuart Pearce has always worn his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his country - and not even Nottingham Forest will be allowed to come between him and his England career.

Pearce, whose contorted face after his exorcising goal in the penalty shoot-out against Spain was one of the lasting images of Euro 96, will step down as Forest's caretaker-manager if it jeopardises his chances of adding to 72 England caps.

The 34-year-old defender is expected to become the first player-manager to represent England in next Wednesday's World Cup qualifying match against Italy at Wembley.

In an interview with FourFourTwo magazine, Pearce revealed he would relinquish the responsibility of leading Forest away from the Premiership relegation zone if it ruled him out of England's plans.

"If Glenn Hoddle says he doesn't think I can manage Forest and play for England, I would step down as manager," Pearce said.

Hoddle can go ahead with plans to include Paul Gascoigne and Paul Ince against Italy following encouraging reports from Glasgow and Milan.

Gascoigne has had the plaster removed from his left ankle and, according to the Rangers manager, Walter Smith, "will be fit for selection". His England midfield partner, Ince, expects to recover from the thigh strain which caused him to miss Internazionale's goalless draw at Perugia on Sunday. "I think I'll be out there," he said. "But I'll only know the full truth when I see the doctor next week."

Dominic Matteo, who has twice been forced to withdraw from England duty by injuries, has also reported fit, despite sitting out Liverpool's 1- 0 win at Derby on Saturday.

The former England winger Chris Waddle has rejected the chance to become the player-manager of West Bromwich Albion and is to remain with Bradford City purely in a playing capacity. Waddle, 36, turned down the chance to take over at The Hawthorns after being unable to agree on the amount of money which would be made available for players. Bruce Rioch and John Toshack had already turned down the post.

Blackburn have agreed a pounds 2.75m fee with Widzew Lodz for the Polish international striker, Marek Citko. The deal is subject to personal terms, a medical and a work permit.

Coca-Cola, who put pounds 6m into the League Cup last week, are anxious about the competition's status now it no longer carries Eurpean qualification. The company have proposed that English and Scottish clubs play in a "Best of British" Coca-Cola Cup. A "Super Final" between the winners of the two competitions is another possibility.

The Football League is less than enthusiastic. "This has not been discussed at senior level," a spokesman said, "and there are obviously practical difficulties with fitting [such a competition] into our calendar."

Plymouth sack Warnock, Scotland squad, page 22

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