| 3.5°C Dublin

Patience is PARAMOUNT for Pearce

THEY ARE the B Specials who have no plans to be decommissioned.

And Reading defender Alex Pearce maintains that there are no groans or grumbles from the back-up players in Martin O'Neill's Ireland squad as they are content to wait their turn and, once given that golden ticket by the Ireland boss in the form of a senior cap, then try to show why they should be in the team in the first place.

With O'Neill consistently picking his team for the competitive games from a core group of players, it's often hard for those on the fringes to let a look in.

Ciaran Clark, Anthony Stokes, Anthony Pilkington, Alex Pearce, Kevin Doyle and Daryl Murphy have spent most of the international year of 2014 in cold storage, on the bench.

In between starts against Oman (September) and the USA (November), Ireland played four games and Pilkington watched all four from the bench, Pearce and Clark were unused subs for three, with Doyle, Stokes and Murphy also benched for long periods this year.

FRUSTRATION

Pearce and Clark took the chance against the USA to get some caps and game time and for Pearce, any frustration at being on the sidelines, any annoyance at travelling thousands of miles to Georgia, Scotland and Germany only to be a spectator, is countered by the prospect of being completely out in the cold.

"I could never say that it's tough to travel and not get to play. It's a pleasure to play for your country and to be in the squad," Pearce told The Herald.

"To me it's a privilege to be in the international squad, being part of that squad is a special thing and no one goes away and sulks when they don't get to play.

"I would never see a day when someone goes away and moans about not getting onto the pitch, it's so hard to get into the squad. You have to relish each opportunity when it comes along, and take the chance when you get it.

"You are brought in to do a job, if the manager picks you for a role then you do what's asked. We are here as part of as squad we are all trying to achieve something - qualification for Euro 2016 - and we are all part of that."

You see, pros like Pearce and Clark know that, frustrating as it may be to warm the bench with Ireland, at least they get to travel.

Unlike fellow defenders Damien Delaney, Shane Duffy and Paul McShane, who tend to make the provisional squads but then don't make the cut when it comes to the final panel. Or Wolves full back Matt Doherty, who can't get into the Irish squad. Or Galway lad Greg Cunningham, deemed good enough to play against Messi and Di Maria for Ireland four years ago but who is now, as he's earning his crust in the English third tier with Bristol City, off the radar.

Add in the experienced internationals Darren O'Dea and Sean St Ledger whose Ireland careers are on hold until their secure their club futures and the waiting room to get into the Irish back four is a pretty crowded one.

On Tuesday O'Neill made 11 changes to the side which started in the previous game, away to Scotland. And Pearce hopes that the ones who came in for debuts (David McGoldrick, Cyrus Christie), rare starts (Daryl Murphy's first start in seven years) and much-needed appearances given their troubles at club level (Shay Given, Ciarán Clark), the B specials have given the manager food for thought. "All you can ask for is a chance, and we all got that on Tuesday," he says.

"There's no point in talking about what you can offer the team, you have to prove that by playing and playing well in games. We got the opportunity the other night and I hope the manager has gone home with plenty to think about.

"Tuesday was really good. We did very well against a very good side, the US showed how good they were at the World Cup finals and they proved it again the other night. We had to hang in there at times in the first half when they attacked us but in the second half we were by far the better side, and we fully deserved our win," says Pearce, stating that even the concession of a sloppy goal in the first half did not take off the sheen from a good night.

"A good win, four goals scored, some good player, that's all positive," he says. "Everyone was really happy in the dressing room after, I think we have a bit of momentum behind us now, there's a good mood in the team and the squad, it's been a good few days, especially after the disappointment of losing in Scotland."

Pearce's competitive international career has yet to take off - in fact, the Reading man is still waiting to play in a competitive game for Ireland, as all six appearances have come in friendly games. But the defender is also something of a lucky charm for Ireland with three wins and two draws for the team in his six outings.

"Yeah, the friendly games go well for me," he says. "It's simple enough, really. I am asked to do a job by the manager and I go out and do my best for the team, if it comes off for me on a personal level, like scoring in two of the games, against Oman, but it's always a pleasure to play for my country."


Privacy