Pearce praise for Gerrard
Interim England boss relishing Dutch test
INTERIM England coach Stuart Pearce has confirmed Steven Gerrard will end his 15-month international exile at Wembley tonight.
Gerrard has not played for England since their friendly defeat by France at the same venue in November 2010.
It means he missed the stellar year that ended with Scott Parker being crowned England's player of 2011.
Indeed, Gerrard has never even been on the pitch at the same time as Parker, who he is expected to partner in the England midfield against the Dutch.
All that will change this evening, whether Gerrard is named as skipper or not.
"I would fully expect Steven to play," said Pearce.
"He has not been on an international football pitch for a long time. It would be folly for a player of his quality not to figure in a game of this magnitude.
"He is as good as it gets in this nation -- both what he does on the pitch and how he is around the camp. We are pleased to have him back."
Gerrard is favourite to inherit the captain's armband sensationally stripped from John Terry earlier this month, a move that triggered Fabio Capello's dramatic exit.
The 31-year-old cannot be certain of getting it though, with Joe Hart, James Milner and Parker also being touted.
All was set to become clear this morning, with Pearce due to tell his players of a decision he still felt had huge significance.
"Captaining England was the proudest moment of my career," said Pearce.
"If I feel that in my heart, I can't take the decision lightly. I can only view it as I see it. When you play for your country that is the true pinnacle of anyone's career."
Pearce suffered a further injury blow yesterday when Glen Johnson pulled out, the fifth member of his initial squad to declare his unavailabilty since Sunday.
Manchester City's Joleon Lescott has been drafted in as a replacement, which merely makes it more likely that his Blues team-mate, Micah Richards, will make his first England start since that disastrous defeat by Croatia in 2007 that brought Steve McClaren's reign to an end.
"Whoever picks the England squad, you are probably going to get 21 or 22 the same and one or two you see something in or have a personal connection with," said Pearce.
"Micah falls into that category with me.
"It is not easy to keep your place in the Manchester City team with the money they have spent.
"His form has been fantastic and he deserves to be here."
ENGLAND v HOLLAND, live UTV/Setanta Ireland (KO 8.0)