Early Doors

Isolated Pearce needed support from England

Early Doors

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It's fair to say that Stuart Pearce's stock is not particularly high at the moment.

The England U21 coach has not been linked with any of the managerial vacancies this summer, or even put among the also-rans, despite the fact that his contract with the FA runs out at the end of June. His career could be set to fall off the proverbial cliff if England's latest campaign does not prove to be a resounding triumph.

Indeed, it does not appear at all likely that the 51-year-old will be offered a new deal by the FA with both Roy Hodgson and FA chairman David Bernstein declining to provide any assurances about the boss's future in a role he has held since 2007.

The 'Young Lions', as they are rather nauseatingly referred to, were victorious in the tournament in 1982 and 1984, but the best they have managed since is reaching the 2009 final when they were heavily defeated by Germany. Pearce was at the helm that night, of course.

The England U21 manager's love of shouting and pointing on the touchline, shouting and pointing in adverts and rock music - oh, and the £6 million signing of Georgios Samaras back in 2006 - has seen him pigeon-holed as a belligerent, one-dimensional coach with questionable judgement.

Pearce is often derided for his perceived blunt approach to the game and limited tactical acumen; but contrary to popular belief, the coach has an impressive record in the job and - perhaps more strikingly - has never enjoyed the support he should have received for major tournaments.

Put simply, Hodgson remains adamant that it is more beneficial for players such as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Phil Jones to be sauntering around Rio in their flip-flops and taking on the Republic of Ireland in senior team friendlies than gaining valuable tournament experience and helping the U21s challenge for a major trophy.

Pearce has talked of wanting "more support" from Hodgson in his role, and his vision of taking the strongest possible squad to a top European U21 tournament has proved to be an unrealistic hope as he embarks upon his final tilt at silverware with an understrength collection of talent.

The popular perception is that Pearce's tenure has been underwhelming, limited by a basic tactical approach to the game, but the statistics vindicate his claim that the side have been on the verge of a significant success on the biggest stage.

Since his appointment, he has led England to an unprecedented four successive European Championship finals and a run of results that have seen the side win their last nine matches without having conceded a single goal.

England have beaten Belgium, Serbia (on two occasions), Sweden, Romania, Norway, Azerbaijan, Austria and Northern Ireland - racking up 22 goals in the process without conceding at the other end - over the course of the past 18 months, a record that equates to a pretty successful stint in charge.

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He spoke passionately ahead of his side's opening match against Italy, summing up what the job means to him and to the wider England set up: "If I strip it down, the burning ambition inside me is to win it. But if I strip it down to me doing my job developing players, developing the 23 players here at the moment will have had fantastic experience and know what tournament football is all about."

Now, ED is not deluded enough to believe that Pearce is the progressive, ingenious coach that can single-handedly transform the way England's U21s play the game and set up on the international stage, but he is fast becoming used as a scapegoat ahead of the World Cup in Brazil and has not received the assistance he is perhaps due.

After all, this is not about Pearce, but about the talented players under his management; as any seasoned international would confirm, experience in top-level tournaments is invaluable if England are ever going to develop a positive, winning culture within the set up. Is it then so audacious for him to request that the best possible squad be made available to him?

When Hodgson was asked by the press whether he would like Pearce to remain in his current role he could only bring himself to say that he considered the line of questioning to be "unfair", while Bernstein responded by saying, "We will review it with him at the end of the U21s. I wouldn't want to tie anyone's hands."

England's U21 side had the opportunity to return from Israel with an extremely rare international trophy and Hodgson has not been able to give Pearce the support he so patently required in order for him to have the best chance of success.

With both Bernstein and Hodgson declining to offer the U21 coach support, much will rest upon the verdict of Greg Dyke, who will take over as the FA chairman at the start of July.

It may well be time for England to part ways with Pearce at the end of his current contract and to move in a different direction after the Euros, but it is a real shame that the FA cannot claim that everything possible was done to help the coach achieve his goals for a talented group of young players.

No one is remotely suggesting that Pearce is the best coach in the competition, but he is respected by his players and has a "burning ambition" for success with England at a level that appears to still be shamefully undervalued by those above him. He deserves better, and so do the players.

Dan Quarrell

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COMING UP: England take on Italy in their Group A opener this evening and we will have live commentary of that clash from 19:30 and the second U21 encounter of the day between Israel and Norway from 17:00. Oh, and football's foremost rumour-mongering cyborg will be here at 12:30 for its latest two-hour transfer chat.

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