Hard graft as youngster is why I made it, says Pearce

Under-21 manager echoes Lampard's remarks about players' lack of dedication
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The Independent Football

The England Under-21 manager, Stuart Pearce, believes that beginning in humble surroundings helped pave the way for his illustrious playing career.

Frank Lampard revealed earlier this week his feelings that young players are given far too easy a ride by their clubs, and their commitment and dedication have suffered as a result.

The England and Chelsea midfielder lamented the end of the days when young players cleaned the boots of the senior professionals and helped maintain the training facilities.

Pearce's experience of trying to make the grade as a professional in the early 1980s was far from easy. After failing a trial at QPR, Pearce settled for playing non-league football at Wealdstone while training and working as an electrician.

He eventually got his big break at the age of 21 when Bobby Gould signed him for Coventry. Two years later, in 1985, he earned his big move to Nottingham Forest, where he would spend 12 years and go on to win the majority of his 78 England caps.

However, so unsure was Pearce of his footballing future that for some time after his move to the City Ground he advertised his services as an electrician in Forest's match-day programme.

Speaking after Tuesday night's 2-0 defeat to France Under-21s, the 46-year-old said: "When I came through the system I worked for five years doing a job. I couldn't take anything for granted and that served me well and I draw on that experience now. I don't have any regrets about my career and I feel that coming up the way I did helped me to go on to bigger and better things.

"I've not got the experience of being a young player brought up through a club, although I'm sure that some of that is fantastic preparation for a career. But I think what we are talking about is young men who need to keep a level tilt on everything that goes on around them, and some manage to do that but some others we lose.

"It's still the same as it was maybe 30 years ago, there have always been distractions. You have the same players and some let things go to their heads and some don't. You have some fantastic kids from start to finish and you have some who are not.

"Maybe that's the sad thing about football, but there are a lot of good professionals out there who get brought up in the right way, who have got a great mentality to football and life. Some are swayed by whatever and won't have a long career in the game and won't maximise their potential, and that's the nature of life, not just football."

Speaking about Tuesday's defeat to France at Nottingham Forest's City Ground, Pearce said: "We were outplayed by a very good French side and I think the beating will serve us well.

"This defeat and this bloody nose that we have taken might have come at just the right time. Things have been going fairly smoothly for us. These players are used to coming off having played reasonably well and having won matches.

"But that is what the Under-21 squad is all about – learning. We have got a massive tournament in the summer [the European Under-21 Championship] and we have to learn from this. The players are disappointed but the one thing that they have got is character, individually and collectively.

"They will want to come out next time and be better players and they will learn from this.

"From a coach's point of view, we have had a great nine days together and at the end of that time we have learnt the most valuable lesson."

78

Number of England caps won by left-back Stuart Pearce between 1987 and 1999.

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