Honest Pearce: 'England were naïve and I'm not up to the job'

Mar 1, 2012
Bill Mann

Stand-in manager tells it like it is after England go down 3-2 to superior Dutch side at Wembley

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England 2 Holland 3. An injury-time goal from Arjen Robben denied England a share of the spoils in a strange encounter at Wembley last night in this pre-Euro 2012 friendly.

After second-half goals from Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the Dutch were in sight of a comfortable victory when England suddenly found some bite. Gary Cahill stroked the ball between the legs of Holland goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg on 85 minutes and as the game edged into overtime up popped Ashley Young to fire home the equaliser.

But as England fans celebrated their side's stirring comeback, Robben conjured a moment of magic, curling the ball past Joe Hart and into the top corner of the net for a magnificent winner.

It was the second such magical moment from Robben. His first goal on 57 minutes came from a brilliant individual run that began in his own half and ended with him drilling the ball into the England net.

The lithe Dutchman was the stand-out performer on a night when the visitors (fielding eight starters from the side that contested the 2010 World Cup final) fully deserved their victory.

England, somewhat surprisingly captained by Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker, barely had a shot on goal in the first period and their woes deepened throughout the game as first Steven Gerrard and then Chris Smalling succumbed to injuries.
England caretaker manager Stuart Pearce called the result "disappointing" and added: "We came up against an outstanding side - the Robbens and Robin van Persies of this world are outstanding - and the exercise will stand our young players in good stead. We were naïve and maybe had a slight lack of belief… We did well to get back to 2-2. A bit of know-how or nous would have seen the game out."

Central defender Gary Cahill was perhaps the pick of the England players, while Adam Johnson and Danny Welbeck showed moments of class. Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge, who needed an injection in his toe after the match, also looked lively but was guilty of missing a sitter late on in the second half.

The brutal truth is that England have only one world-class player in their ranks, and that's Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United striker sat out last night with a throat infection and is anyway suspended from England's opening two matches in Euro 2012 against France and Sweden. His absence will hurt, particularly against the French, who last night beat Germany 2-1 in Bremen.

Whether it will be Stuart Pearce who has to find a way to beat the French in June remains to be seen. The former England defender was handed temporary charge of the side after Fabio Capello's resignation last month, but, after the defeat to Holland, Pearce admitted he's not ready for the job on a permanent basis.

"I've really enjoyed this week and would enjoy the summer but I'd only be buying the FA some time if they've not got someone in time," explained Pearce. "The full-time manager of England is somebody else. It's certainly not me… I don't have the experience for this job."

Whoever it is in charge of England in June, they'll have a job on their hands to get the Three Lions past the pool stage.

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