Pearce sidekick backs him for full England job


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The Independent Football

Stuart Pearce's track record as a player and manager makes him a strong contender to replace Fabio Capello on a permanent basis, according to England Under-21 coach Brian Eastick.

Pearce was put in temporary charge of the national side following Capello's departure earlier this month and will lead them in tonight's friendly against the Netherlands at Wembley. Eastick is standing in for Pearce to oversee the Under-21s crucial Euro 2013 qualifier against Belgium in Middlesbrough this evening.

Eastick, who has worked with former England defender Pearce for the past three years, said: "I've been with Stuart to two European Championships in Sweden and in Denmark and I can tell you the squad was meticulously organised the whole event," Eastick said. "I'd like to think one day he would be the England manager.

"If he was German or Dutch, I think the public perception would be that he should have the job. If you were a German player that had played at the highest level and represented your country for a long time, been to three European Under-21 championships, a senior World Cup, an Under-20 World Cup, I think they'd all think he'd be a fantastic contender.

"He's made it clear he doesn't feel ready for it at this moment in time. Having said that, if there isn't an England manager appointed before the Euros, I think he's the best person to take the senior squad."

In Pearce's absence, Phil Neville has joined up with the Under-21 squad in preparation for the game against Belgium, the former England international having been granted three days leave by Everton. "He's here as Stuart's guest," Eastick said. "He's played at the highest level of the game for a long time so it's been a benefit to the youngsters to have him around."

The responsibility for plotting Belgium's downfall lies with Eastick, though, and he knows what to focus on to rectify the mistakes made during November's 2-1 defeat to the same opponents, who trail his side by four points in qualifying Group Eight.

"Although the team talk will be about being positive and trying to create chances, there will also be a message to the players that they need to be aware of the counter-attack," Eastwick added. "If we play our best I'm very confident we can win."

Although Pearce has taken some of the players familiar to him from the U21s into the full squad – such as Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell – Liverpool's Jordan Henderson remains and will captain the side. "Obviously everyone wants to play in the senior team, and I'm no different," said the 21-year-old, who won the Carling Cup on Sunday. "But this is a big game, I'm captain and looking forward to it."

Henderson's Anfield team-mate Martin Kelly, Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chelsea's Josh McEachran, who is on-loan at Swansea, are also in Eastick's squad, while Middlesbrough players Jason Steele and Joe Bennett could also feature on their home turf.