ALEX PEARCE has yet to pass the first big test that comes with a call-up to the senior Ireland squad – the ritual of having to stand up in front of his new team-mates and sing a song for the group.
But the big defender, who was name-checked by Giovanni Trapattoni as a player who could play a role in the future for Ireland and give the defence a more physical presence, says he has everything else lined up to become a success at international level.
Pearce, who was capped by the Republic at U14 level but then had a spell with Scotland’s U21s after the trail from Ireland went cold, received a late call-up to the panel for tonight’s game against Oman in London.
He won’t be in the starting line-up as Trapattoni has gone with a central defensive pairing of Stephen Kelly and Paul McShane but Pearce is likely to see action at some stage.
A veteran of a few Premier League seasons with Reading he has already proved himself at club level, but he has one more task to fulfil before he becomes a fully-fledged Ireland player.
“I haven’t sang my song for the squad yet,” he told the Evening Herald, in reference to the custom where a new arrival in the squad has to perform a song for the others as an initiation rite.
“I was due to sing it at dinner on Sunday night but not everyone was there on time so we left it. I’ll have to do it before the game. But I have my song ready, it’s probably going to be Wonderwall (by Oasis).
“But I am confident in my own ability that I can come into the team as well as the squad and show what I can do.
“I have enough experience under my belt at club level to deal with this. It’s up to the manager to decide if I am good enough to play, so all I can be is ready to play.
“It’s great to just get the opportunity to join up with the squad, just to come in and be a part of it is a big thing for me.
“There are chances of an opening in this squad as Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger are injured so it remains to be seen if I can stay in the squad in the future,” added Pearce, the latest chapter in the Irish success story at Reading FC.
The call-up from Ireland meant that he had to give up a few days’ holidays from his club duties but that was a small price to pay.
“Reading gave the non-international players a few days off, I was due back in today so the call-up came in the middle of my time off, but I didn’t mind at all when the call came,” he says.
“I was very pleased to get the call late on Saturday night to come in and be part of the squad. It’s a big step for me, my first squad involvement and I’m delighted to be here.
“I know I’m not in the starting team but hopefully I can get on and get to play a part. If it’s off the bench and I get a few minutes I will be ready.
“Just being in the squad is a big deal for me, getting the chance to work with such a fantastic manager. The Ireland manager is a real legend in the game and it’s an honour to be part of his squad.
“I wasn’t intimidated when I first came in to work with Trapattoni, but there was a touch of nerves on my part as it was my first time in. I just wanted to get involved, get to meet the manager and get to know the staff and the players,” added Pearce.
There were at least a few friendly faces for the new arrival, as some of the current squad were once team-mates at Reading.
“Yeah, I know Kevin Doyle and Shane Long from Reading, Simon Cox too, so it was nice to see some faces I knew but I am getting to know the rest, and I’ve played against a few of them.”
Due to the fact that Friday’s game in Kazakhstan was not shown on TV in England, Pearce was unable to see how events in Astana progressed, but he has heard the stories.
“The lads have filled me in on how the game went and everyone knows it wasn’t a great performance but the important thing is that we won,” he says.
“To start off a World Cup campaign with an away win was brilliant so hopefully we can pick up more wins in the next two games next month.”