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Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012

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Calling the shots: England's caretaker manager Stuart Pearce announces his squad for the international soccer match against the Netherlands during a news conference at Wembley Stadium on Thursday. AP

Eyeing Euro 2012 role, Pearce downplays England's hopes


WEMBLEY, England — Staking his claim to stay in charge of England until Euro 2012, interim coach Stuart Pearce urged fans to be more realistic about the team's prospects of ending a 46-year title drought.

Since Pearce was part of the side which reached the 1996 European Championship semifinals, the furthest England has reached in a major tournament is the quarterfinals, leaving the 1966 World Cup as its only honor.

But the 49-year-old Pearce has told his Football Association employers that his wealth of tournament experience as a coach with the under-21s makes him an ideal candidate to take the senior side to Poland and Ukraine in June.

While Harry Redknapp is still the leading contender to be Fabio Capello's full-time successor, doubts have been raised about whether he would have time to prepare the Three Lions for Euro 2012 given his determination to remain in charge of Tottenham until the end of the season.

And even Capello, who won titles as a coach in Italy and Spain, struggled to adjust to the demands of tournament football with England when he had two years to prepare for the 2010 World Cup.

"I've said to my bosses here that if they need me to take the team in the summer I've got the experience to do so," Pearce said. "I've been to two major semifinals as a player, I've been to a final as the under-21s manager, I've to semifinals as the under-21s manager, I've been with Fabio to South Africa to a World Cup. I've got the experience to take this tournament on without a problem."

But he isn't getting carried away about what can be achieved, with France, Sweden and Ukraine awaiting in the group stage.

"The expectation is vastly too high every time we go to major tournaments," Pearce said inside a Wembley Stadium dressing room. "We play against some top-line countries and we take them on as though we're superior outside the footballing environment . . . the expectation that will follow and lead the team into the tournament will be slightly out of tilt with reality."

Put bluntly: "Trophy cabinets don't lie — and look at ours."

Pearce will audition for the England job on Wednesday when he takes charge of the friendly against the Netherlands. What he can offer is continuity and familiarity.

"I can offer myself as a coach that a lot of these players know," Pearce said. "And I played alongside some of them, the likes of Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand were teammates of mine at the back end of my career."

But with one eye already on Euro 2012, Pearce named a squad on Thursday featuring emerging talent at the expense of Lampard and Ferdinand.

After working with Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverely and Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell with the under-21s, Pearce selected the uncapped players to see how they would cope at a major tournament.

"My mentality going into this game and picking this squad is: What would I need to learn as a manager going into a major tournament in the summer?" Pearce said. "And what would the next possible manager, looking from afar, need to learn about individuals?"

The F.A. executives selecting the next manager might also learn something about Pearce's abilities from the game at Wembley Stadium. Two directors from the four-man board that will hire the next coach spent two hours watching Pearce speak to the media on Thursday.

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