COACH Stuart Pearce believes Richard Stearman might have pushed himself into the reckoning for a place in England’s squad for the European Under-21 Championship finals next summer.

The Wolverhampton Wanderers defender produced an assured performance at centre-back on his debut in the 2-0 win over the Czech Republic in a friendly international at Bramall Lane on Tuesday night.

Despite the defensive riches Pearce is likely to have for the event in Sweden in June 2009, he has been impressed with the application and attitude of Stearman.

“I was absolutely delighted with Richard - he put in a very good performance,” Pearce said. “The position is probably the strongest we have in the squad bearing in mind that David Wheater, Steven Taylor, Micah Richards and Michael Mancienne weren’t here.

“And I have got a player in Stearman who has gone out and put in a good solid performance at the heart of my defence on his debut for the side.

“One or two players - if not three of four - have come in and done particularly well. Some of the youngsters have said ‘hey, you can shove me on at half time or even start with us because we won’t get phased by playing for the England Under-21 side’, which is great to see.

“Richard has been omitted from the last two or three squads but when we’ve had injuries or people pull out we have had to call him up. And he’s turned up at the drop of a hat two or three times and had to be patient for his chance to play and now it’s come so he’s thoroughly deserved it.

“And I think Stearman - where some players get criticised - his attitude has been spot on. Where some players might say ‘well, if you’re not picking me then I’m not coming’ but that’s not in his locker. He has turned up and been arguably as good as anyone on the pitch in a white shirt and has done himself a lot of credit with what he has shown he can do.

“The fact he can play right-back as well is useful to me in terms of the future so he should be very pleased with what he is doing at the moment both for club and country.”

Pearce also said an overall integration of a ‘Team England’ mentality, where players seamlessly move between squads, is starting to reap dividends. He added: “I think we have the staff and the nice consistent feel to them as well and they help players blend in.”