Pearce: Boyhood hero Keane was really good and encouraging to us all
AS A schoolboy, Manchester United supporter Alex Pearce admits to having posters of Roy Keane on the walls of his bedroom.
Now the interaction between Keane and Pearce is a lot more real, as the Reading defender is in the Ireland squad for the friendly double-header against Latvia and Poland.
His international career has not been a smooth ride, not even a case of stop-start. He had a perfect introduction to the international scene as he scored on his debut as Ireland beat Oman in a friendly in London last year, but since then he only made the squad once more and then dropped out of sight.
But he was brought back in for this week, included in the 27-man squad named by Noel King just before Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane took over, and Pearce is delighted to be in Dublin, working under the Corkman's watchful eye.
"We are all well aware of what Roy's done in the game and that goes a long way with players. He was really good in training, he took the session and was encouraging everyone and it was really good. Like I say, all the players are willing to learn, especially off people like Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill as well," Pearce said after the first training session under the new managerial team in Malahide yesterday.
"Day one was really good, really enjoyable, the new management team is in place, so everyone is just trying to impress. It looks like a clean slate for everyone and I'm just pleased to be in the first squad.
"We are just trying to impress him and take the new management team's ideas on board." Part of that process involved Keane and O'Neill taking players aside for chats after the first meeting on Monday night.
"They've come to player to player, there are a lot of players to go around. Obviously in training, going around introducing themselves if they don't know them and having a quick chat with them. And just welcoming everybody really. Kind of trying to get everyone to enjoy it as much as they can and get a winning feeling," Pearce explained.
Pearce says he was not surprised that the FAI landed O'Neill as boss, but the surprise came when he was named in the squad.
There were administration issues with Pearce; he had played for Scotland at under-21 level and needed to go through a process with FIFA to 'purge' his Scottishness, so to speak, and fully declare for Ireland. That was only completed in recent months, though he would have been available for friendly games in that time.
"I was involved in the Oman squad and that game and I was then involved in a squad after that. Then I was not in the team at Reading, so I think that might have affected my chances as well as the passport thing. All I can say now is that it has been all sorted and thank God for that and I'm pleased to be in the squad.
"It's really pleasing to be in the first squad. Obviously every player wants to be involved no more than myself. It's really pleasing to be involved. I've got to take it a day at a time, a game at a time and try to impress when I can."
The fact that defenders Richard Dunne and Ciarán Clark are missing for this international trip can aid the cause of fringe men like Pearce.
"That's down to the manager. Whatever team he picks, you've got to go out and do the best you can. We've got a vast amount of experience, we've got great players around the squad and got good players in abundance.
"Whichever team he picks, every player is more than capable of doing a good job. If I can get on the pitch, that would great. If I can start a game, that will be great.
"That's down to the manager at the end of the day. As a player, you've just to go be ready," Pearce added.