Pearce missed chance to sign Walcott for £3m

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The Independent Football

Stuart Pearce, the Manchester City manager, has admitted that he blew the chance to sign the England striker Theo Walcott for just £3m last summer.

Walcott, 17, travelled to England's World Cup training camp in Portugal yesterday after his unexpected inclusion in Sven Goran Eriksson's 23-man squad last week. The Arsenal striker sneaked into the national squad despite failing to make a first-team appearance for the Gunners since his £12m January switch from Southampton.

But Pearce admitted that he could have signed Walcott for a fraction of the fee Arsenal paid for him had he listened to the City first-team coach and the former Southampton head coach, Steve Wigley.

"When Steve came to City last summer, he told me about this kid he had worked with at Southampton and it was Theo Walcott," Pearce said. "Steve said that he would pay £3m for the kid tomorrow if he had the chance. I asked if he could come straight into the first team, but he said he didn't know.

"He reckoned that we would have to wait a little bit for him like most young players, so I looked at it with some surprise that he put a £3m tag on a player that hadn't even made the Southampton side. The fact that he has now gone to Arsenal for many millions and broken into the England squad shows me that Steve Wigley has an eye for a player. Do I wish I had taken Steve's advice? Definitely, yes."

Pearce admits that he is still keen to take Shaun Wright-Phillips back to City - 12 months after selling the winger to Chelsea for £21m.

Wright-Phillips was not named in England's World Cup squad after a disastrous season at Stamford Bridge, but Pearce admits that he faces a battle to tempt Jose Mourinho to allow him out on loan.

Pearce said: "Of course I would like to take Shaun back on loan. I enquired about him in January, but Chelsea hold his contract and they make the decisions on Shaun."

Pearce also revealed that he has no plans to join the England coaching set-up once Steve McClaren takes over from Eriksson. Pearce had been one of the early contenders to succeed the Swede once the World Cup finals were over.

And when the former Brazil manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, emerged as the man most likely to be appointed it was understood that Pearce was being lined up as his assistant and potential successor. But when Scolari ruled himself out Middlesbrough's McClaren was appointed instead.

McClaren has yet to finalise his own coaching team but Pearce said that he would be too busy trying to revive City's flagging fortunes next season to have any spare time for the national side. "I don't expect to part of the England set-up after the World Cup. I have my hands full at City at the moment. It is a massive club and I need to put all my time and effort into that. You can never rule anything out but at this moment I do not think there is an opportunity there for me.

"Steve will pick the team he needs around him and I'm sure he will get it right, whoever he picks."

Pearce is backing England or Brazil to win the World Cup and has tipped Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard to be in contention for the top scorer's award.

"My head tells me Brazil, my heart England and my eyes say Lampard and Gerrard," he said. "England's chances are good as there is enough ability in depth to have a good run. The fact that it is in Europe is also in our favour."