James Lawton: Put on the shirt and play as though you mean it

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The Independent Football

Pearce, one of England's most stalwart players, pointed out that he never saw a division between a friendly and a competitive match. It was the same old process. You put on the white shirt and you played your guts out. It also happened that you formed habits of mind - and heart - that made both you and your team-mates better players. That took Pearce's England to World Cup and European championship semi-finals.

Some argue that England currently have the best squad of players since Sir Alf Ramsey's men lost to West Germany in the quarter-finals of the 1970 World Cup after playing Brazil almost to a standstill and outplaying Franz Beckenbauer and his team-mates for most of a scorching afternoon. That claim about today's team looked feeble in Denmark this week and it will remain so until Sven Goran Eriksson, or his successor, adopts Pearce's stance that playing for your country is important, for all kinds of reasons, in all kinds of circumstances.

Perhaps the FA should monitor Pearce's progress at the City of Manchester Stadium. He has, after all, the right kind of background and, most valuably in these times, backbone.

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