Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pearce: Bent Has a World Cup Chance

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pearce: Bent Has a World Cup Chance

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Douglas

STUART Pearce has offered Darren Bent and Adam Johnson encouragement in their bid to make the final England World Cup squad, reassuring them that there will be a "level playing field" for all 30 players during the pre-tournament training camp in Austria.

Pearce was back in the North East to mark the premiere of the excellent documentary One Night in Turin, which retells the story of England's emotive journey to the semi-final of Italia '90.

Based on Pete Davies' superb book 'All Played Out', it loops rare footage of the tournament and perfectly captures the spirit of a tournament that transformed attitudes to the national game.

It also illustrated the strong North East influence in the England side, from revered boss Sir Bobby Robson through key men Paul Gascoigne, Bryan Robson, Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle.

This year the region is represented by Manchester City's former Middlesbrough winger Johnson, something of a wildcard pick by Fabio Capello, and Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick - while adopted Wearsider Bent carries Sunderland's hopes of representation. All three are on the fringes of the side at the moment but Pearce, England's under-21 manager and one of Capello's key lieutenants, says they have every chance of making it.

"All places are up for grabs," former Newcastle player Pearce insisted.

"Some individuals have maybe done a bit more over two years such as the Rooneys of this world, who you would fully expect to be in the 23 - but the one thing Fabio has created is a level playing field for everyone.

"That level playing field is for all 30 players, anyone who steps onto the plane to Austria will be entitled to think I have every chance of making it to South Africa in a 23-man squad."

Asked specifically about Johnson (right) and Bent, he said both fully merited their inclusion in the squad.

"Johnno was with me last summer at the European Championships the two years build-up and I know that he is a fantastic lad. …

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