Pearce wants advice not autographs from United hero
CONSIDERING that the majority of the Ireland squad were young football fans when Roy Keane was in his pomp, it was inevitable that a childhood follower of the Corkman would emerge sooner rather than later.
Step forward, Alex Pearce. The well-spoken native of Oxford followed Manchester United as a kid and pictures of Keane adorned his wall.
"My old man took me (to Old Trafford) a few times," admits the 25-year-old Reading centre-half. "And it was nice to see a great team play. But I didn't look for his autograph.
"Obviously, we all know what he's done in the game, he was a fantastic player and to have him around the place is great. Certainly, anything he says, I'll try and take it on board."
Of course, Pearce was quick to stress that he is also looking forward to hearing more from new manager Martin O'Neill, who addressed the group after they gathered in Portmarnock on Monday. Yet he acknowledges that the addition of Keane has added an extra edge to the ticket.
Pearce is relieved to be part of the squad this week after a slightly circuitous journey to this point – he represented Scotland at underage level, switched allegiance to Ireland and then made a goalscoring debut as a sub in the friendly win over Oman in September 2012. But he is still looking to add to that solitary cap, due to a combination of factors.
The formalities of securing his Irish passport prevented him from being selected for competitive fixtures, and then a contract dispute and a spell out of the team at Reading saw him drop out of favour with Giovanni Trapattoni.
There's more certainty about where he stands now, with a deal agreed to extend his stay in Berkshire and a clean slate in terms of the international set-up.
Indeed, the unavailability of Richard Dunne and Ciaran Clark could open the door for involvement in the meetings with Latvia and Poland.
This week's challenge is to make an impression on the high-profile observers. "They're just welcoming everybody really," continued Pearce, when asked if he had spoken to the gaffer and sidekick about his own situation.
"They've come player to player and there are a lot of players to go around. It's about trying to get everyone to enjoy it as much as they can and get a winning feeling.
"If I can get on the pitch, that would be great. If I can start a game, that will be great. As a player, you've just to go be ready."