Pearce defends Theo decision
Boss insists he was right to leave star player on the bench
By Jamie Casey. Last Updated: 18/06/09 11:10pm
England Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce has defended his decision to leave Theo Walcott on the bench in the wake of the winger's second half demolition of Spain Under-21s.
Pearce created shockwaves at the European Under-21 Championship when his starting line-up excluded the Arsenal winger, who many suggested was the key player of his young side.
Walcott's introduction in the second half of the Group B clash prompted an explosion of life into the team as England opened the scoring just five minutes after he replaced Adam Johnson.
The 20-year-old was the creator of England's second goal as his burst of pace and cross allowed James Milner to drill the Young Lions into a 2-0 lead after Fraizer Campbell had scored the opener.
England booked their place in the semi-finals on the back of the victory and Pearce was quick to defend his decision, claiming it was purely tactical and that he was proved to be correct.
"I felt with the game going to be being stretched in the second half he'd have an impact - he proved me right," Pearce told Sky Sports.
"But then I know Theo and I know what he's capable of and little Adam Johnson had done nothing wrong for me.
"He took the sting out of the Spaniards to start with and enabled Theo to come on and put on the virtuoso show that he did.
"I must mention at this stage Theo Walcott's attitude.
"We spoke before the game about how he answers not being in the starting line up. You know, it's difficult for him to understand how he's played for the seniors and then he didn't start here.
"The only way you answer a managerial team selection is to put in a performance of both attacking and defending that he did and credit to him, but I expected no less from him.
The win means the England youngsters progress to the semi-finals with their final game against Germany set to decide the group winners, and Pearce insists they are keen to continue their 100 per cent record.
"It has to improve again if we're going to be successful. We'd like to beat the Germans in the next game, no doubt about that," he added.
"We've got 23 people that are desperate to play and desperate to ply for a place in the team. We'll see how we come out injury wise and one or two things."
Pearce was also keen to pay tribute to all his players, most notably Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba.
He said: "Fabrice Muamba, I think was absolutely unbelievable tonight. I thought his performance was as good a performance in an England shirt in a holding role that I've ever seen."
Pearce revealed he had already spoken to senior England boss Fabio Capello immediately following the win and the Italian was impressed with what he saw in Pearce's side.
He said: "It's his birthday today, so obviously I wished him happy birthday first and he said 'congratulations, I just watched the game' and he's pleased as punch."