Pearce prepared for 'tough' top flight debut
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Journey: Alex Pearce, pictured with Hal Robson-Kanu will 'grasp every opportunity'.
WHEN Reading made their Premier League bow six years ago, Alex Pearce was a mere teenager finding his way in the Royals youth team.
A strapping six-foot-plus, his size and presence made him stand out amongst a crowd of team-mates and friends, most of whom would fall by the wayside as they slid down the footballing ladder.
In sport where only the fittest survive, Pearce clearly had what it takes to become one of the best.
Now, the promising teenager who sat in the stands that unforgettable August day in 2006 when Steve Coppell's Reading beat Middlesbrough 3-2, is finally set to gain his top-flight wings against Stoke City at Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
"I remember our first game in the Premier League when we were last there," said Pearce, speaking exclusively to the Chronicle. "We went 2-0 down to Middlesbrough and came back to win 3-2. I remember it really well. It was a really hot day and a great first match in the Premier League. It was a brilliant day for the club, it was amazing.
"I'd been playing away with the
Under 18s that morning and by the time we got back to the Madejski Stadium, Boro had already scored twice.
"So to come back and win from that position was just brilliant for everyone.
"I suppose it's come full circle in many ways. Hopefully I'll be stepping out there for that first game this Saturday and hopefully we can get the same result, although this time with a clean sheet."
Despite winning the Championship title with a record 106 points the previous season, Steve Coppell's Royals looked shellshocked when they stepped out to face Boro in the club's first top-flight fixture in its history.
Before they had time to blink, goals from Stewart Downing and Yakubu had given the visitors a 2-0 lead with barely 20 minutes gone.
But the mood changed when late first-half goals from Dave Kitson and Steve Sidwell put Royals level at the interval.
And it was left to former striker Leroy Lita to score the memorable winner in the second half and Reading's Premier league season was up and running.
"The team turned that game around and it went on to be a great season for us considering it was the club's first in the Premier League," said Pearce.
"In that first half against Middlesbrough we may have been a little timid, but Boro also had some good players. To have turned that game around was fantastic.
"We really took the league by the scruff of the neck and really got to grips with it quickly, it was great to watch."
Reading went on to finish eighth with 55 points, just missing out on European qualification.
One of Reading's strengths over the past decade has been its youth team setup, and it can only help the likes of Pearce to have already experienced the Premier League atmosphere at the club.
He said: "There were four or five of us in the youth team like Jem Karacan, Simon Church, Hal Robson-Kanu and myself who are now in the first team. James Henry, who went to Millwall, was also there.
"We were in and around that first team and experienced it. We could sense the success that was going on so it's fabulous to be involved in that again.
"Now all the scholars are looking at us and they'll be chomping at the bit and hoping to be involved in the same way we were back then."
Pearce, named Player of the Year in the official Chronicle-sponsored awards last season, knows he will have to hit the ground running in the first game against Stoke City this Saturday.
"I was very excited when the fixtures came out and I knew it would throw up something funny," he said.
"My uncle, Mick, is a Stoke City fan so there has been a bit of banter between us already.
"But they're a big, physical team and we know it will be a tough encounter. It isn't one for the faint-hearted and we will have to be prepared for it."
The 24-year-old added: "It's probably not a glamour tie but it's the Premier League and you have to love every minute of it.
"We worked so hard to get here so we've got to grasp every opportunity and go for it."