Stuart Pearce is happy to commit himself to a new two-year contract with the Football Association in the belief that he would not be ready to take over as England manager should Fabio Capello walk away after next summer's World Cup finals. Further progress for Pearce's Under-21s at the European Championship – going into tonight's group match with Germany in Halmstad, they are already assured of a semi-final place – would enhance his credentials, but he confessed yesterday that compared to Capello he is "inept" and well short of the required experience.
Pearce used a racing analogy to make his point: "I'm a manager that has been in control of a team for maybe 150 matches over a four-year period. That is ridiculously lightly raced as a manager. Very lightly experienced. I've got a long-term plan that I keep to myself. The one thing I can tell you is that today I haven't got enough experience by any means. The England manager's job is the pinnacle of anyone's career. When I look at Fabio every day and watch him work, I realise how inept I am as a manager."
Sacked after two mixed seasons with Manchester City, the 47-year-old Pearce originally became England's Under-21 coach on a part-time basis and was confirmed as the first full-time manager after leading the team to the last four of the European Championship two years ago.
He has always hated the tendency to judge managers on a short-term basis. "It's how fickle we are in football," he said, "that maybe two years ago as Manchester City manager I was written off. Two years down the line I'm written back on again. If I lose the semi-final I'll be written back off again."
At least Pearce will not face another losing semi-final against Germany, who caused him heartbreak in penalty shoot-outs at that stage of the 1990 World Cup finals and Euro '96. On both occasions England would have been strongly fancied to win the final. "It never mellows," he said of those memories. "I think about those games because I draw experience from them. I think about it to learn lessons to pass on to these young players, what the pressure was like from those defeats and the importance of the penalty shoot-out."
Having won plaudits for his firm handling of Theo Walcott, who was substituted against Finland, dropped and then brought on to change the game against Spain, Pearce faces another test today in picking a team to avoid defeat while not risking unnecessary suspensions and injuries ahead of Friday's semi-final.
Gabriel Agbonlahor and Micah Richards are not fully fit and also are one yellow card away from a ban. So is the goalkeeper Joe Hart, whose inexperienced deputy Joe Lewis of Peterborough would benefit from a game.
England (4-1-2-3, probable): Lewis (Peterborough); Cranie (Portsmouth), Mancienne (Chelsea), Onuoha (Manchester City), Taylor (Middlesbrough); Muamba (Bolton); Cattermole (Wigan), Noble (West Ham); Walcott (Arsenal), Campbell (Manchester United), Johnson (Middlesbrough).
Germany (4-4-1-1, probable): Neuer (Schalke); Beck (Hoffenheim), Hoewedes (Schalke), Boateng (Hamburg), Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund); Castro (Bayer Leverkusen), Khedira (Vfb Stuttgart, Aogo (Hamburg), Marin (Moenchengladbach); Ozil (Werder Bremen); Dejagah (Wolfsburg).
Remember the name: Andreas Beck, Hoffenheim and Germany
Sir Trevor Brooking is among those who have admired the attacking right-back in Germany's opening two games. Born in Russia, he had two seasons with Vfb Stuttgart before moving last summer to Hoffenheim, the newly promoted little club side who shocked German football last season by leading the Bundesliga before finishing seventh. Already a full international.