'The Finals are my main driver'
Friday, 09 October, 2009
Stuart Pearce sets his goals before first home Qualifier in Coventry
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Stuart Pearce is looking forward to returning to Coventry as he takes his Under-21s side back to his former club for their UEFA European Championship Qualifier.
The Ricoh Arena, home of Coventry City, will host Friday night’s Group Nine encounter with Macedonia. It’s England’s first game on home soil since the summer’s European Finals and it has re-ignited memories for the England Coach.
In 1983, Pearce was playing non-League football for Wealdstone when Sky Blues boss Bobby Gould turned up to watch him play. And after one match, Pearce was whisked off to Coventry City to begin a new career as a professional football.
26 years on and Pearce, whose clubs included Nottingham Forest, Newcastle United and West Ham United, can look at 78 England Senior caps as he heads back to the club where it all began and hopes a good crowd turn out to cheer on The Three Lions.
“Any club who gives you your start in football is fantastic. I was only here for the best part of 20 months, but as a club to start of my career it was fantastic,” he said.
“I’ll be forever beholden to Bobby Gould and the club for bringing me here and starting me off. One or two had looked at me and left me there, but he took a chance and as luck happens he did.”
Pearce continued: “The set-up here is fantastic. For the Championship this is unbelievable and would grace the Premiership.
“One of the main reasons we’ve brought the game back here is, historically, they’ve been selling this place out. Against the Germans a couple of years ago they sold out, so it would be fantastic if we got another good attendance on Friday night.”
Pearce’s squad, who sit on four points after two games, could be boosted by the return of Theo Walcott, who featured in the summer’s tournament in Sweden, but who has also got experience of Senior international football with three goals from eight full caps.
However, Pearce is not giving any clues away as to his selection for the game.
“I’ll pick the team on Friday, but he’s certainly one of our best players in the squad. We’re pleased to have him in the squad, but it would be folly for me not to have brought him here,” said Pearce.
Walcott has missed most of this season so far for Arsenal, but made a goalscoring return on Sunday in the Gunners’ 6-2 win over Blackburn.
Pearce says that a chat with Arsene Wenger helped make up his mind about bringing Walcott in after he made his first appearance of the season. And as well as helping his team against Macedonia, Walcott’s appearance could highlight the links between the Seniors and Under-21s and spur on others to progression.
“This is where we can back up the club and the senior team,” said Pearce. “If Theo does play and he comes through unscathed, then there’s one or two injuries in Ukraine there might be an opportunity. If he wasn’t here then I don’t think he’d be considered if there were any drop outs.
“He played against Olimpiacos in midweek behind closed doors, he also come on the pitch on Sunday and did very well, so I thought it was for it. Arsene was all for it, he thought it was a fantastic idea. Straight away he said to me ‘yeah it’d be great, if you could take him, if he plays, fine.’ It’ll benefit the player, benefit the club and certainly benefit the country that’s for sure.
“I think the club managers realise I do look after their players. If ever a player isn’t right or isn’t fit, they’ve never been wheeled out on a football pitch, never. I always look after them because there’s other players coming behind them who are fully fit and want to play.”
Pearce added: “But doing that I have to make sure we are competitive. My main driver is to get this team to the Championship and give them that experience again. My job is to please the public of England with results and performances and hopefully get players through this squad and into the Seniors.
“I don’t see any reason why one or two from this squad couldn’t break through to the Seniors. It’s happened quite regularly over the last couple of years and I see that continuing.”
Tickets for the game are on sale through the Coventry City box office priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions. Call 0871 220 0260 or buy online at www.seetickets.com alternatively watch the match live on TheFA.com
You can also order you match programme online, click here for details
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