FA shows faith in Pearce's pride

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The Independent Football

Stuart Pearce will go into England's first match at the European Under-21s Championship on Monday knowing that a new two-year contract awaits his signature.

First sounded out by Sir Trevor Brooking three months ago and endorsed by Fabio Capello, Pearce had no hesitation in signifying his keenness to continue as Under-21s manager and assistant to the senior team.

Even if Capello, whose contract runs until 2012, were to leave after next summer's World Cup finals, as some Football Association officials fear he will, Pearce would be around to provide the sort of continuity that England have tended to lack in the past. Offering him another two years ahead of a testing tournament here in Sweden represents a considerable vote of confidence.

"I've agreed my contract with the FA in principle and it is a case of signing it," Pearce said yesterday at the squad's hotel here, equidistant from Halmstad and Gothenburg where their group matches against Finland, Spain and Germany will take place.

"I think it is a fantastic job. I've never been one to tout my name around and chase jobs here there and everywhere. If I'm happy in my workplace, I stay there. I did that as a player and will do the same as a manager."

The Under-21s position was on a part-time basis when Pearce (right) took it on in February 2007, but after leading the team to the semi-final of that year's European Championship, where they lost 13-12 on penalties to the hosts and eventual winners the Netherlands, he became the full-time manager. Since January last year he has also worked with the senior side under Capello.

Although repudiating his older brother's membership of the far-right British National Party, Pearce is a genuine patriot who particularly endeared himself to England supporters with his emotional reaction to scoring in a penalty shoot-out at Euro '96 after missing, crucially, in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against Germany.

He was therefore bewildered by the attitude of David Bentley, who declined to go to the last Under-21s championships in order to rest. "If I was giving advice to any player, I would say that if you are selected for your national team, play as many matches as you can," he said this week. "I did. I'm not speaking as someone who has picked and chosen my games. You turn up whether you are injured or not. It's a great honour to play for your country because you bet your bottom dollar that when you are 35 or 40 you cannot do it any more."

Pearce was actually 37 when he appeared in the last of his 78 internationals. After two semi-finals as an England player and one as a coach, he is desperate to go at least one better this time. That is a demanding task, as 13 of his 40-man provisional squad were unavailable. They included five of the most experienced, in the captain Steven Taylor, Tom Huddlestone, Matt Derbyshire, Aaron Lennon and David Wheater, who have almost 100 caps between them at this level .

Manchester United's Danny Welbeck, who has been tipped by Sir Alex Ferguson for a place in England's World Cup squad next year, and Tottenham's Jamie O'Hara were also forced to withdraw. But Theo Walcott and James Milner, having been given "an extra day to pack" after duty with the senior team, joined training yesterday.

The Manchester City defenders Micah Richards and Nedum Onuoha, who sat out that session, should be fit to play against Finland on Monday.

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