Stuart Pearce has revealed that he would like to remain as England's Under-21 manager beyond the end of this month's European Championship finals in Israel.
Speaking on the eve of England's opening game, against Italy in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night, Pearce said he was looking forward to discussing his future with the Football Association in a fortnight's time, when he hopes to be given the opportunity to extend his six-year tenure.
Although there has been no indication as yet that Pearce will be offered a new deal when his contract expires at the end of the month, the 51-year-old has made it clear that he thoroughly enjoys his current role. He said he retains a "real passion" for working with younger players and also suggested that he has no desire to return to club management.
Pearce, who has led England Under‑21s to an unprecedented four successive European Championship finals, expects to sit down with Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's director of football development, once the tournament is over. Greg Dyke, who will officially take over as FA chairman from David Bernstein at the start of next month, will also be involved in the talks.
"I'm looking forward to seeing Trevor Brooking in regard to my future," Pearce said. "Absolutely delighted with the job I do. No matter what the results of this tournament, [I'm] looking forward to sitting down with the FA in two weeks' time.
"I've had a fantastic relationship with David Bernstein, because obviously of my Manchester City links with him. But I would fully expect Mr Dyke to come in and be a full part of [the decision-making process]. But that's for the FA. If Trevor decides he's dealing with it personally, fine. But I'm sure there will be discussions with regard to the rest."
Asked whether he was keen to continue as Under-21 manager, Pearce replied: "Yeah, I enjoy the role. It's fantastic. As I say, nothing's changed with me or with the FA, I think."
Although Pearce's future has been unclear in the lead-up to previous European Championship finals, he has never before spoken of his determination to remain in charge before a tournament ball has been kicked.
By making his stance clear this time Pearce has prevented the issue from becoming a distraction during a tournament which he hopes will end with England winning their first European Championship title since 1984.
That promises to be quite an ask, even allowing for the fact that England have put together a run of nine straight victories. This, after all, is not an England squad blessed with supreme individual talent. In the 23-man group only five players – Nathaniel Clyne, Steven Caulker, Andre Wisdom, Jordan Henderson and Danny Rose – started 10 Premier League games or more last season. There also looks to be a shortage of attacking options, especially if Wilfried Zaha is unable to overcome the ankle problem which is expected to rule him out of the Italy game.
While it would not be in Pearce's nature to think of anything other than bringing the trophy home, the manager pointed out, when asked what would constitute success in Israel, that it was quite an achievement to keep qualifying for the finals. "In some ways success, when you look at my time in charge, four tournaments… France have not been here once and they are a major side, so to get here and be part of this fantastic tournament is a success in itself," Pearce said.
"When we start our journey every two years, we sit our players down and we talk about winning the tournament. We're here to win – that is the message I only ever send out to the squad. On top of that it will be how many players can get tournament experience here – the likes of Jordan Henderson, who can step into the seniors next time round.
"So there is a multitude of things; if I strip it down to a burning ambition inside me, it is to win it; if I strip it down to me doing my job developing the 23 players here at the moment… hopefully we will get a few of them stepping forward. Roll the clock back and you have [Chris] Smalling, [Phil] Jones, Kyle Walker, [Danny] Welbeck, [Daniel] Sturridge, all in the seniors who were on this stage two years ago."
Pearce said he believes Italy are the favourites in a group which also includes Norway, whom England beat home and away in qualifying, and Israel, the hosts. "We are going in on the back of winning nine games not conceding a goal, so confidence is very strong. But sometimes you can't judge [how strong a squad is] until after a tournament is finished or even until a year later," he said.
"Take the Germans when we played them [in the final in 2009] and got beaten 4-0, albeit with [Joe] Hart, [Gabriel] Agbonlahor and Fraizer Campbell suspended, which really shook us. It wasn't until a year later, the World Cup in South Africa, that people started to hear about [Mesut] Ozil, [Jérôme] Boateng, [Sami] Khedira and [Manuel] Neuer, to see the magnitude of the opposition, and the same will apply this time around.
"Experience tells me don't judge the tournament until a year down the line, when some of these national teams go to Brazil and one or two individuals you have not heard of now, all of a sudden they are household names and senior internationals."
It is hoped that a couple of young England players will be among them.
England (probable) 4-2-3-1 Butland; Smith, Caulker, Dawson, Robinson; Henderson, Chalobah; Lansbury, McEachran, Shelvey; Wickham
Italy (probable) 4-4-2 Bardi; Donati, Bianchetti, Caldirola, Biraghi; Insigne, Florenzi, Verratti, Marrone; Immobile, Borini
Referee A Gautier Fr
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