Wednesday 21 March 2018

England Euro '96 hero says Marcus Rashford should be playing in underage sides this summer

Tom Rooney

Stuart Pearce believes that Marcus Rashford has been prematurely promoted to the England squad for the European Championships and, for the sake of his long term progression, should have spent the summer with their underage sides.

Few could forget the visceral image of a near unhinged Pearce as he rallied the Wembley hordes after scoring his penalty during the quarter final shootout against Spain at Euro’96. Twenty years on, the moment is yet to lose its resonance.

Nor, for that matter, has that particular England side. Led by Terry Venables, the team brimmed with attacking prowess.

Paul Gascoigne was at the peak of his powers, Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer were imperious, and young guns such as the Neville brothers, Steve McManaman and Jamie Redknapp began to come of age.

Of course, Pearce’s celebration wasn’t just an act of unabashed patriotism, it was also one of catharsis.

Six years earlier at the World Cup in Italy, the full back was one of two England players to miss his spot kick as England were eliminated at semi final stage by West Germany after the first of many failed penalty shootouts at future major tournaments.

Indeed, the European Championships in 1996 ended in an identical manner; Gareth Southgate missed his penalty before the insufferable Andreas Moller netted the decisive spot kick to ensure Germany progressed to and then won the final.

After hanging up his boots, Pearce managed the England Under-21 side for six years, so he is more than adequately informed to offer insight regarding young talent and pressure that comes with competing on a global stage.

It would be an incredible understatement to say Marcus Rashford’s emergence for Manchester United was unexpected.

Just minutes before kick off at Old Trafford in February, the 18 year-old striker was jettisoned into the United starting line up for their Europa League knockout tie against FC Midtjylland, after Anthony Martial was injured in the warm up.

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England's Marcus Rashford in action for his country. Photo credit: Tim Goode/PA Wire.

Rashford scored a stunning brace as United won 5-1 and, as they say, never looked back. The hitherto unknown teenager went on to find the net the seven more times for his club.

With just one cap for the England U20 side to his name, Rashford was called into the senior set up for their warm up games for the Euros and, unsurprisingly, scored with his first shot on his debut against Australia.

As such, Roy Hodgson named him as one of five strikers in his final squad at the expense of Newcastle winger Andros Townsend and, perhaps not as directly, Leicester’s Danny Drinkwater,

If it were his call, Pearce would have had Rashford represent the England U-19 and U-20 sides this summer. The latter team won the Toulon tournament last month after beating France in the final.

"I think (Rashford) is brilliant but I look and say 'what youth tournaments is he missing by being with the senior squad?' (first published in

"He's missed Toulon and the opportunity to get a winners medal there and he'll also miss the Under-19s finals in Germany in July because he's with the seniors now.

"I hope I'm proved wrong, I hope he plays a lot of games this summer, scores the goals that win us the tournament and I'll hold my hand up and say 'well I got that one wrong'.

"But until someone disproves it then I'll say that too many of our youngsters get elevated to the seniors and then do not play."

Pearce is not the first to express concern regarding the dearth recognised wingers in the England squad, and would have taken the aforementioned Townsend “just to give you that wide option from the bench."

In terms of pecking order it is difficult to see how Rashford can seize a prominent role in France, given the presence of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane, and it will be a great surprise if he features in their opener against Russia on Saturday.

Recalling his experiences from 1990 and 1996, Pearce paid homage to the mental fortitude of the German teams England encountered in those heart-breaking semi-finals.

"We were unfortunate that we came up against a German side that were outstanding both technically and that had a real mental discipline about them.They held their nerve in the shoot-out.

"I think if we'd have got past them - probably on both occasions - we'd have ended up winning finals.”

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