A need for continuity is the main reason behind the FA offering Stuart Pearce a new two-year deal to stay on as coach of the England Under-21’s. Many thought the former Manchester City boss’ four year tenure was at an end after the disastrous European Championship that saw them fail to pick up a win and qualify from their group.
There is no doubt that Pearce has done a decent enough job in charge of the Under-21’s. After all he did steer them to the semi-finals in 2007 and final in 2009. But the capitulation in Denmark brought serious questions to the table about his management style and tactical nous. Comparing the squad taken to the last three tournaments it has to be said that the players at his disposal this year made for the strongest under-21 squad we’ve had in years.
Back in 2007 and 2009 there were a few standout players like James Milner, Joe Hart, Ashley Young and Leighton Baines all whom have gone on to be regularly selected for the senior squad. But a vast majority of the other players haven’t had a sniff at becoming a senior international yet Pearce guided them to within a whisker of European glory – twice! Yet this year with a squad bursting at the seams with talent Pearce couldn’t even muster one single victory.
He was hindered by the withdrawals of Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshire, two players who could have made a big difference, but lets not forget he had the likes of Jordan Henderson, Phil Jones, Connor Whickham, Jack Rodwell, Daniel Sturridge, Kyle Walker, James Tomkins, Marc Albrighton, Scott Sinclair, Michael Mancienne and Danny Wellbeck. All of these players have played regular first team football over the last few seasons with a few commanding some wallet aching transfer fees in the process. So why couldn’t Pearce mould them into a well oiled winning machine?
He did come under fire for his baffling team selection and overly cautious tactics and substitutions. It was almost as if Pearce was scared of the opposition. The most confusing of the lot was playing Michael Mancienne in midfield when he’s excelled at centre half for Wolves in the past few seasons.He employed a 4-2-3-1 formation against Spain which saw England lack any sort of cohesion and attacking threat and it was only Wellbeck’s 88th minute leveller that spared Pearce’s blushes. The three lions never had a sniff during the game as the Spaniards dominated from the first whistle.
The results against Ukraine and Czech Republic further cemented the fact that Pearce isn’t worthy of another two years in charge. The FA has signalled that continuity is the reason as to why he’s been given an extension on his deal. There is also the small matter of the 78 caps he won for the senior side. So the failure in Denmark hasn’t taken into account then? But lets ask the question, whom could the FA coax into taking the job if Pearce were to vacate his position? I doubt they’d want a foreigner, and there isn’t exactly a stream of English coaches better than Pearce who would be suitable for the role.
It’s clear that Pearce has clung onto his job due to his past glories as a player and the fact he did well in the previous two championships. But the FA can’t afford to be sentimental when it comes to their young lions. Only a small number of players over the last five years have made the transition from Under-21 football to the senior side. Admittedly that is down to their domestic form but there are players who have been amazing at club level yet absolutely stunk when playing for the Under-21’s.
If the FA wants more players to progress to the senior side then Pearce isn’t the man to help them come to grips with international football. A further two years of him could prove detrimental to any youngster hoping to fulfil their international ambitions. New coach would add a fresh imputes and throw some new ideas into the mix. They need someone with more managerial experience and more importantly tactical knowledge. That’s what lets Pearce down. It was his downfall at Manchester City and it will be with England.