Pearce: Young stars need big games

Daily Echo: Theo Walcott Theo Walcott

Former England under-21 manager Stuart Pearce believes unless young players are given experience of tournament football they will continue to risk being hit with nerves in the pressure environment of the World Cup finals - just as he was in 1990.

Pearce - who left his role at the Football Association after a disappointing 2013 Under-21 European Championships finals in Israel - constantly found himself fighting battles to get key members of his squad like former Saints duo Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as Jack Wilshere, released to boost the Young Lions' squads for the summer tournaments.

It is a scenario which Pearce - part of the England side which reached the semi-finals of Italia 90 before losing on penalties to Germany, the left-back missing a spot-kick in the shoot-out - believes will continue to hamper the long-term chances of the England senior team if the cycle is not broken.

"We have probably not put the foundations in place to go and win the World Cup, we have to be a bit more akin to trying to win things at the under age groups before we can be going and thinking we can win, like Spain or Germany have done over the years," said Pearce, who was speaking at the Rileys signing day for the Men United v Prostate Cancer campaign in central London.

England manager Roy Hodgson is set to name his World Cup squad on May 12, following the end of the Premier League season.

While Tottenham winger Andros Townsend and Walcott have seen their hopes of making it on the plane to Brazil dashed by injury, promising talents such as Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling, as well as Luke Shaw are expected to feature.

"Players like Sterling and one or two others are having a particular good time at the moment, but we have to support these players to make sure they don't end up as just squad players and not being used," he added.

"The importance for young footballers is making sure you have as many 90 minutes as possible and gaining as much tournament experience as possible.

"You have only got to look at Theo Walcott - he went to the 2006 World Cup, and since that time we have had the 2010 tournament and now 2014, which he wont be fit for, a couple of European Championships, an Olympic Games, three under-21 tournaments, two under-20 World Cups, and out of all that, I think his total of summer tournament football is about three-and-a-half matches at all age groups. That is not what we want from our top stars and is the one thing we are historically bad at."

Pearce told Press Association Sport: "Qualification for England's teams is second only to Spain, it is when we get to these major tournaments the majority of our better players do not turn up at the younger age groups to play and get that tournament experience. Unless you do that, you can't step into the senior squad and know (what it is all about).

"How many of our senior players will go to Brazil this summer with very limited tournament experience?

"The idea is to make sure that when they end up going, someone like Daniel Sturridge or James Milner, then they have that tournament under their belt, so they know what it is all about.

"It is not the same as qualification, as I found out to my cost at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, when the nerves and pressure took over, even though I had earned 20 caps over a three-year period going into it."

Rileys are committed to raising £100,000 through specific themed events and initiatives, backing the Men United v Prostate Cancer campaign and joining an army of supporters fighting against the biggest killer amongst males in the UK.

"A lot of men don't like to reach out and come forward to ask for help, and have that big bravado of 'there is nothing wrong with me," said Pearce, who will return to club management with former team Nottingham Forest next season.

"It is really important that we all make people aware and raise the profile."

:: Men are being asked to sign for Men United by visiting www.prostatecanceruk.org/menunited

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