Pearce focuses on play-off progress

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The Independent Online

Stuart Pearce hopes his England Under-21 dream does not end against Wales this week, but he expects his job to be reviewed if his youngsters fail to make it through their European Championship qualifying play-off against Wales – and the first leg takes place at Ninian Park this evening.

Pearce is determined to bring a feel-good factor to the country by winning a trophy next summer in Sweden and is regarded highly enough at the Football Association to be part of Fabio Capello's staff with the seniors. His job been viewed by many as a way of nurturing home-grown coaching talent, although Pearce realises he must achieve the right result against Wales.

"When I joined 18 months ago on a full-time contract it was a two-year contract," said the Under-21 coach. "That will be reviewed, I hope, next summer at the end of the tournament. That will change on Tuesday [after the second leg at Villa Park] if we don't get through the play-off situation... I would still be under contract until the summer but it will be a decision for me and my bosses."

Pearce has been part of Theo Walcott's emergence for the seniors, starting him in every game last season before the Arsenal youngster was promoted to the seniors. The former England left-back has remained unbeaten in open play as England Under-21 coach – the only defeat he has suffered was after the marathon penalty shoot-out against the Netherlands in last summer's finals.

"I love doing this," Pearce added, emphasising how much he enjoys "the involvement with Fabio and the seniors".

When Pearce took the Under-21s to the 2007 Championship, he had David Bentley withdraw with fatigue and could not contact Gabriel Agbonlahor to confirm his call-up. Now, 18 months into the job, Pearce is getting text messages from Premier League managers to tell him players returning from injury are putting themselves forward for selection. It means he could have Middlesbrough's Andrew Taylor back for the second leg at Villa Park on Tuesday.

As for Walcott, Pearce expects him to feature against Kazakhstan for the seniors as part of a fluid system in which young players can drop down to the Under-21s if they are not playing in Capello's team. "I would suspect he will keep his place," Pearce said. "[But] if he wasn't starting for the seniors I think maybe he would be at Ninian Park for us.

"Players have to be able to step up and step down and they may fluctuate for however long."

England unbeaten

England Under-21s are yet to lose in 90 minutes under the stewardship of Stuart Pearce: their only loss came after a mammoth penalty shoot-out against the Netherlands in last year's European Championship finals.

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