Thursday, 21 January 2016
Alex Pearce: What does he bring to Ashton Gate?
The prospect of raiding the under 14’s for squad members seemed to finally jolt City into transfer action this week, as they swooped for the double loan signing of Derby County centre-half, Alex Pearce, and QPR’s ex-Swindon attacking midfielder, Ben Gladwin.
To say caretaker boss John Pemberton moved quickly is perhaps masking the truth somewhat as I have it on very good authority that the Pearce signing in particular was lined up by Cotterill for last Friday morning, only to be delayed following his dismissal the evening before.
We all saw what Gladwin could do last season, in the games against us in particular, but also in Swindon’s other televised games during the run-in. His challenge is two-fold; to prove that the great run of form at the end of the season wasn’t a flash in the pan, and, if it wasn’t, to prove he’s got the intelligence, pace and ability to show it at Championship level.
With Alex Pearce, however, our experience is probably more limited, aside from remembering he was pretty decent for Reading a few years back, so I caught up with Dan from The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) to gain a better understanding of the type of signing we’ve made to see us through until the end of the season.
Firstly, what type of player and character are we getting in Alex Pearce?
What's you're getting is a very solid, unspectacular but honest defender. Pearce knows what he's good at and sticks to that formula, he'll clear his lines, make a simple pass and heads the ball away well under pressure.
What you won't be getting is a cultured defender that you should expect to see majestic cross-field passes or marauding runs from. He's not blessed with great pace or agility yet he's not slow and lumbering either.
Overall he's your prototypical 7/10 defender.
He was your player of the season in your Championship winning squad a few years ago, and was a regular until his move to Derby County in the summer. Are you surprised he hasn't established himself there?
Yes and no. I think Derby have a pretty solid defence and it was always going to take a major injury or suspension for Alex to break in over there. Managers rarely like to break up a settled defensive unit and, with Derby doing so well, Pearce has been a bit unlucky, especially with them being dumped out of the League Cup early on, limiting his opportunity to impress.
What are his main attributes?
As I mentioned, he's no nonsense and what you see is what you get. He's good in the air at both ends of the pitch and pretty strong in the tackle as well. His positioning and reading of the game is also pretty good while he's not afraid to dig out a team mate if they're not performing.
And his weaknesses?
Sadly Alex has always lacked the little bit of extra quality to make it at the very highest level. He's struggled when asked by managers like Brendan Rodgers to play a more possession-based game while he's also been exposed by a lack of pace when up against more nimble forwards. There's also a sneaking suspicion that he needs an established defender beside him to really thrive as he's not coped well when placed in inexperienced or shaky defensive units.
His confidence at Reading never really recovered from a messy contract dispute during the 2012/13 Premier League season and some fans never forgave him for what they saw as a lack of loyalty - yet how much of that was really down to Pearce we'll never know.
What's your favourite memory of him during his time with Reading?
I mentioned his lack of technical prowess but this stepover at Doncaster was so out of the blue it was brilliant (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v383IqbZXb0)! He also scored a fair few goals during our Championship winning season a few years back and as you mentioned took our Players of the Season honours.
And finally, can you give us any facts, unusual or not about him that we might not know?
He's represented both Scotland and the Republic of Ireland at International level despite being born in the Oxford area! He was also dubbed 'the next John Terry' by Brendan Rodgers and while he's never quite reached those heights on the pitch, thankfully off it he's been much more well behaved, gaining a reputation for being a ruddy nice bloke!
Personally I wish him all the very best.
If you're interested in reading a bit more about Pearcey during his time at Reading I'll point you towards a couple of articles I put together on TTE over the years!
My thanks to Dan for this insight – in Pearce, Aden Flint and Nathan Baker we now look to have three pretty similar options in the middle. Extra height is always a good option, but it will be interesting to see how Pemberton starts to use him – perhaps he sees it as a way to get back to the now-dreaded three at the back with extra solidity?
Regardless of formation plans, it's good to have extra cover anywhere in the squad at present - hopefully Pearce and Gladwin are just the first of half-a-dozen signings to come in and bolster the forces and ensure our Championship survival.
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