Football: Pearce puts nous behind Under-18s

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The Independent Online
STUART PEARCE will make his delayed debut as an international coach when England Under-18 host a four-team Uefa Championships qualifying group next month.

Pearce would have been be involved with the Under-18s for the friendly match against Switzerland at Peterborough earlier this month, but his surprise recall to the senior squad by Kevin Keegan put paid to that.

Now he is unable to play for anyone because of his broken leg, so he has the chance to help guide the Under-18s in their attempt to reach the play-offs via matches against Spain, Cyprus and San Marino.

Pearce should feel at home in his first match, which is against Spain at his club's home ground, Upton Park, on 6 October, and the squad includes four of his West Ham club-mates, Joe Cole, Stephen Bywater, Ezomo Iriekpen and Michael Carrick.

Bywater, a goalkeeper, trained with the full England squad in the build- up to the Euro 2000 qualifying match against Luxembourg this season. He is currently gaining experience on loan at Wycombe.

Cole, Carrick, Aston Villa's Gareth Barry and Coventry's Gary McSheffrey have all tasted first-team action with their Premiership clubs this season.

Barry, a regular member of the England Under-21 squad last season, has just earned a senior recall at Villa after being disciplined by his manager, John Gregory, for breaking a curfew.

England's other group matches will be against Cyprus at Leyton Orient's Brisbane Road ground on 8 October and then San Marino at Dagenham & Redbridge 48 hours later. The winners of the group will go into a play-off over two legs to decide who qualifies for next summer's finals.

In addition to Pearce, Nigel Spackman, who managed Sheffield United, will be assisting the Under-18's head coach, Martin Hunter, the former Bradford and Stoke assistant manager.

ENGLAND: Bywater (West Ham), Kirkland (Coventry), Iriekpen (West Ham), Tann (Cambridge), Samuel, Barry (both Aston Villa), Hanson (Middlesbrough), Konchesky (Charlton), Carrick (West Ham), Prutton (Nottm Forest), Pead (Coventry), Cole (West Ham), Stonebridge (Plymouth), Mike (Manchester City), McSheffrey (Coventry), Etherington (Peterborough), Webber (Manchester United), Armstrong (Liverpool).