Pearce asks himself, what would the great leaders do?

England stand-in coach's 'unselfish' team selection is worthy of respect, if not a victory over the Dutch

Wembley Stadium

For a man who claims to be "pretty lightly raced" in the football management game, the man in the blue suit and brown shoes wasn't short on conviction and the novelty of an England manager confidently articulating the national anthem was just the start.

It was a team in his mould, from the captain with the short, back and sides, to the young boys who have been through the ranks under his tutelage. The only question mark about his first 45 minutes as England manager was how he managed to watch the side he had assembled. He was up and down out of the dugout that often.

Pearce apparently told British troops in Afghanistan during a recent, evidently inspiring, speech at Camp Bastion that "being unselfish" is a quality all great leaders share and he certainly revealed that much in the XI he chose to start with. Granted, his options had not been vast, yet he could have settled for the safety of a more experienced group and put himself first in pursuit of the manager's job. Instead, this was an opportunity for those boys on whom England might depend this summer, which was as wise as it was worthy of respect.

Some of them suggested that Pearce knows his England better than the Fabio Capello who grappled to name the members of the next generation in the ashes of the World Cup campaign, in Rustenburg two summers ago. Micah Richards and, with the exception of the miss which will haunt him today, Daniel Sturridge pretty much proved the manager had judged them right in the course of a first half in which England competed.

There were two moments in five minutes when Scott Parker played the leader's role to sublime perfection. His powerful block on Wesley Sneijder and his tackle of great technical quality as Robin van Persie edged dangerously, left to right, across the England box, made you marvel again at Capello's misjudgment in leaving this player off the plane for South Africa.

Tactically, the set-up was not entirely dissimilar to Capello's: two wide men behind the striker allowing England to make up in attacking numbers what they lacked in quality. Danny Welbeck was Pearce's own twist on that formation – the lone forward also deployed in that role in last summer's European Under-21s Championship in Denmark. Welbeck did little to suggest that he was a better option.

The problem, as England departed to the half-time dressing room with their reputations and that of the temporary manager intact was that you felt that the Netherlands which had been held in check was operating at half pace, and not that interested in the occasion.

The proof of this was brutal when full pace came. The England fans had been lulled into a type of security, their band just starting to blast out "Rule Britannia", when the deadening reality arrived that England are unlikely to enjoy a sovereign reign in eastern Europe this summer. The burst of pace available to Arjen Robben would probably have been well known to Chris Smalling, since DVDs of how he eliminated Manchester United in the 2010 Champions League for Bayern Munich probably form part of the Old Trafford education process. He and Gary Cahill were the men who let Robben tear Pearce's hopes asunder as he cut them apart.

In the instant when those two were beaten again – by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's thunderous header – the notion of Pearce's England boys offering a fresh start was entirely deconstructed. This looked like a defence which called for John Terry, the one in whom Capello so fatefully trusted.

England's late rally was remarkable, which said something for Pearce's powers of inspiration. But the thought which lingers, after Robben struck back with such nonchalance, is that this reconstituted England are not ready to strike fear into the continent's best this summer. As the visiting manager Bert van Marwijk put it: "We had the possibility of playing football against England and we like to play football."

The next time they play, England will be heady on that pre-tournament elixir of optimism. Harry Redknapp risks damage to his hallowed reputation if he leads the England mission too soon. Perhaps he would be wise to leave it to the man with the blue suit and brown shoes.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?