Yes, young ones, England did beat Spain. What’s more they did so via a penalty shoot out.
Playing for his country meant everything to a man whose nickname was ‘Psycho.’
But it doesn’t mean the same to some players these days. Don’t take my word for it.
Pearce himself has hit our at what he calls the “apathy” of some who wear the England football shirt in the present day.
The former England Under-21 boss said: “Our boys, for whatever reason, be it the power of the Premier League, the finance they get at such a young age, whatever it may be, there is a lack of real passion to want to play for your country no matter what. We have to solve that problem and give them international experience.
“In our wildest dreams do you honestly think that England or any nation in the world can turn up at a major tournament without six or seven – I think there were eight players with senior international caps – who could have played for the England Under-21s this summer?” Pearce said.
“Out of those 17, you talk about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere. The odd one was injury, [but] apathy played a big part of it – the Oxlade-Chamberlains of this world, the Phil Joneses, because they didn’t want to come.
“Once they go through the golden ivory towers of the seniors they don’t want to come and play with the Under-21s any more. There is no nation in the world that could suffer that and it’s a problem we have to solve. If it’s a case of stopping players going into the seniors because they don’t want to step down – like the Spanish players do – and they’re happy to do so.’
Now Pearce, sacked as Under 21 manager after a dismal campaign, is not everyone’s cup of tea, I know that. Some say he is not intelligent enough to manage anything more than a pub side. Some snobs on the periphery of the game mock the way he speaks and there is no doubt he has upset some footballers in his days as coach and manager at club and international level.
Stuart Pearce is one of several former top flight footballers who expect the players of today to care as much as he did. The sad truth is that many of them don’t.
Manchester United defender Phil Jones has written to the FA demanding an apology from their former employee, Pearce. I doubt he will get one.
You don’t have to like Stuart Pearce to know that the core of what he has said is spot on.Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph says: “What Stuart Pearce has said is essentially correct. Is there this desire on the part of the young players? But where Stuart is wrong is that he had the chance to play Jack Rodwell but there was a total breakdown of communication between Pearce, Rodwell and Roy Hodgson.
“So Jack Rodwell goes and flies thousands of miles to Rio, sits on the bench for 83 minutes, plays 7 minutes. How did that help his development? He could have gone and played a minimum of three games for the Under 21’s. It’s too ad hoc. They have to sit down and work out a career pathway for these young players.”
Is there among the current senior squad a player the under 21’s should look up to?
Henry Winter says: “Ashley Cole always reports for duty and I think the kids coming through could look at Ashley Cole and learn a thing or two about his devotion to his country.”How do people think Spain conquered the footballing world? It is because the players cannot withdraw from the under 21 or senior squad with injuries that don’t exist, only to run out for their club a few days later.
Ten years ago the Spanish national football team were a bad joke within the country. I had to beg bar owners to watch a game involving Spain. They mocked their own team and chose to watch a soap opera or, worse, a bullfight, instead of their own countrymen play football.
But Spanish football changed its way of thinking. They turned the national team into what is effectively a club in its own right. They changed the thinking of young players and created a mentality that encouraged the players to give as much for their country as for their club.
And Spain got it right. While the rest of the country was failing on economic and employment fronts, the national football side suddenly became popular in its own country.
In England, we all know that football fans put club before country. Yet, after a 0-0 draw in Ukraine this week, many of those fans were critical of the England team. Moan, moan and thrice moaning on Twitter.
I have a message for those football fans who complained about the national team. You are, in part, to blame.
Like those apathetic players, you are partly responsible for the demise of the English national side. How so? You bought into Sky Sports and and Australian broadcasting magnate changed the face of our domestic game.
The money you continue to pay for Sky Sports helps attract foreign footballers, purchased for ridiculous fees and on vast wages. Your money is going out of the game and into the back pockets of player agents. Millions and millions of pounds.
Many young English footballers no longer have the chance to work their way up from youth team to the reserves and on towards the first team. The glib phrase: ‘If they are good enough, they will make it’ is not correct. How can they if the club that signs them (often to make sure their opponents do not) no longer has a youth team or reserve side?Years ago I saw the likes of Neil Shipperley and John Terry play at those levels for Chelsea. That is where they learned the game and there has been no player more proud to play for his country since Stuart Pearce than former captain, John Terry.
Today too many talented, passionate, young English footballers end up warming the bench for their club, or fetching drinks for overseas stars.
I have no idea if the players Stuart Pearce has picked out for criticism were indeed apathetic about playing for their country.
I do know that in past decades, playing for England was the ultimate achievement for players such as Colin Bell, Gerry Francis, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Moore and many others.
Had you asked those players: ‘Would you rather play for your country or finish 4th in the league’?, I have no doubt they would have chosen the white or red shirt of England.
Today it seems to me that finishing 4th in the Premier League is the holy grail.
Club managers are not interested in the England national team. They have their own backs to protect.
They do not see that a successful national side may well have a positive effect on their own clubs. They don’t have to be Scottish or French managers to tell their young players to feign injury and withdraw from the Under 21’s or senior squad. English club managers are every bit as guilty on that front.The only way to overcome what Pearce has been frank in talking about is to change the thinking. From the bottom to the top of the game everyone, players, managers and football fans, have to realise that a winning national side will itself reap benefits for clubs at all levels.
Look at how the country as a whole reacted to the comparative success at Euro ’96. It was the closes thing I have seen to what I have witnessed on the streets of Spain when that country won the European Championships and World Cup.
I am so glad I saw England win the World Cup on television in 1966. I wish every 8 year old could experience that.
I don’t expect to see them do so again in this lifetime.
But England can be great again. If the will is there.