Early Doors

A Pearce revolution? Not quite

Early Doors

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There are two minutes to go of the 2004-05 Premier League season and Manchester City need to find a goal against Middlesbrough to qualify for the UEFA Cup. In a fit of desperation, Stuart Pearce orders Nicky Weaver to clamber off the bench and induces bemusement all round when telling David James to make his way up front.

Early Doors was convinced this would be the most unlikely attacking selection of Pearce's career. Until yesterday of course when, in his first and possibly last England squad, he called up Fraizer Campbell.

The Sunderland striker has played 609 minutes of football in the 21 months having suffered with extensive injury problems, yet having worked under Pearce at Under-21 level now finds himself elevated to the senior team for a friendly against Netherlands next week.

Pearce said: "He has huge enthusiasm to run in behind defenders. I worked with him a few years ago and injury has held him back a little bit. But I talked to Martin O'Neill a few days ago and he spoke very highly of him. His form is good and I think he'll thrive in this environment."

Despite this explanation, it is surely a strange choice to make. Campbell's form upon his return has been decent yet is it really sensible to place the extra burden of international football on him so soon after a lengthy injury? ED can imagine Martin O'Neill leaping around in fury if the striker suffers any kind of setback.

What the selection of Campbell does highlight is the paucity of options England have in attack - it wasn't so long ago that Kevin Davies and Jay Bothroyd were playing of course - and surely signals that the eighth most expensive player in the history of football can make alternative plans for the summer.

Yes, despite scoring against Brighton, Andy Carroll has not been deemed worthy of a place. To be honest, ED reckons Swansea's Danny Graham can feel a touch more aggrieved given his excellent form across the duration of the season.

Aside from Campbell, though, the squad has a very familiar look to it.

Despite being promised a squad full of young players, a breath of fresh air, a statement, we got a selection that could very well have been picked by Fabio Capello himself.

In fact, this clear thread of continuity exposes one of the more flawed aspects of revisionism of Capello's reign: that he was the intransigent Italian, who stuck by his favourites. In fact, since the 2010 World Cup he had worked assiduously to bring fresh blood into the side, many beneficiaries of which policy were in Pearce's selection.

In fact, Campbell is the only player never to win recognition in the past, as Capello even picked Tom Cleverley in August when this game against Netherlands was originally postponed due to the London riots.

Some newspapers reported that Pearce is leading the charge into some kind of brave new world - with one even drawing parallels with Germany's fantastic young side, ridiculously - yet this barely even represented evolution, let alone revolution.

It was a selection as conservative as the new, dramatic, retro side-parting that Pearce chose to sport in front of the media (a haircut that, incidentally, was quickly likened to Hitler's, though ED saw it as more of an homage to Mad Men with season five fast approaching).

Perhaps the most glaring proof of this conservatism was the inclusion of Stewart Downing, a man who has had a horrid season at Liverpool.

A much more daring, inspiring choice would have been Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal, or Swansea's Scott Sinclair, both of whom have played for Pearce at Under-21 level and have enjoyed far better seasons than Liverpool's £20 million man.

Of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Pearce said: "I could have brought him into the seniors, played him for 10 minutes and there would have been a body of opinion that said he had bypassed the Under-21s and should never play for them again. If we keep doing that then we will never win at that age group.

"Alex has done extremely well for the Under-21s. He might well be the best player for the Under-21s at this moment in time. But the experience he gets from playing 90 minutes in a qualifying match will serve him much better than being elevated into the seniors and having a 10-minute cameo role here."

There was no real reason to expect Pearce to usher in some kind of squad overhaul, except for the fact that the press were so obviously briefed that he would do so. Yesterday's selection was, in that respect, a disappointment.

Pearce explained the selection of old timers such as Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney thus: "Steven's not been in the squad, I don't believe, since 2010, someone told me, which is too long an absence for a player of his ability. So it was important that he came back in and got within the fold again.

"With suspension going into the first two group games, I think it's important that Wayne's back on an international pitch and playing games. It would be too easy, and too foolish maybe, to put a totally inexperienced side out on that pitch for a game of this magnitude."

A sensible strategy no doubt, but of the few senior players who didn't make it, Pearce did rather fail to adequately explain the particular absence of Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and Joleon Lescott given that Gerrard and Rooney were joined by Gareth Barry and Downing in the squad.

Lescott's exclusion was met with bemusement - with both Vincent Kompany and Patrick Vieira questioning Pearce's decision on Twitter - and not only because the squad included just three centre-backs, yet no less than five players who can perform at right-back. Lescott's form has been imperious of late and Tuesday's game at Wembley appeared the perfect chance for him to cement his credentials for a place in England's starting XI.

Despite some inconsistencies, though, Pearce's first press conference as temporary England boss was roundly applauded by the media, some of whom were no doubt just relieved to see the back of Capello and his garbled English.

But ED was left wondering, Campell's bizarre inclusion aside, whether things would have been tremendously different under the previous boss.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I did not speak to the owner but instead the people close to him, like (technical director Michael) Emenalo and others, to transmit the message. They were sent to ask me. That's the normal way we communicate. I see it as normal. He just wants to know my thought process during my selection. The owner was disappointed with the result and asked questions about the team and I duly answered." - Andre Villas-Boas reveals he had to explain his choice of starting XI to Roman Abramovich after Chelsea's 3-1 defeat to Napoli in the Champions League.

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COMING UP: We preview all of the weekend's games in the Premier League as well as the Carling Cup final between Liverpool and Cardiff City. Jim White and Paul Parker also file their latest columns, while the Fantasist stops by at 3pm for another fantasy chat.

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