Pearce: Follow the example of the old guard

STUART PEARCE will tell his young Olympic hopefuls to follow the example of the ‘old guard’ tonight as they bid for a quarter-final spot.

Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy have been in top form for Great Britain.

And now Team GB are on the brink of the last eight after a draw with Senegal and a win over the United Arab Emirates.

Pearce’s side face Uruguay at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

And Psycho says his over-age stars have set a perfect example for the younger players in a competition where the games come thick and fast.

The GB manager explained: “Craig Bellamy is as good a professional on the training pitch as I’ve worked with — and Ryan is a similar ilk.

“They are great role models to the younger players. If they are unsure how to conduct themselves as professionals, recovering from matches, stretches, doing the rehab, I tell them to look at these two.

“With them you get the whole package. They get picked for what they can do ability-wise and that was the first port of call when I spoke to those two individuals.

“From there, I wouldn’t say we have been surprised — their response was just what we expected. The professionalism of both is incredible.

“But I wouldn’t say their age makes them any hungrier for success than the rest.

“It’s impossible to have one-size-fits-all sweeping statements like that. We have top professionals throughout this squad.

“Since my playing days, professionalism has gone through the roof. Players know how to look after themselves.

“There is a lot more sports science to the game but, yes, there is still hunger too — and that remains very important.”

The presence of Welsh icons Giggs, 38, and Bellamy, 33, should counter fears the sell-out 69,000 crowd will boo when the national anthem is played.

Striker Daniel Sturridge has no fears on that score.

He said: “I spoke to Bellers and he said the Cardiff crowd is unbelievable. They’ll be behind us 100 per cent.

“I’ve never played before at the Millennium Stadium so to get to play in front of the Welsh fans will be fantastic.

“To be part of Team GB is amazing and to have two experienced players like Ryan and Craig giving me advice has been great.”

Pearce is more worried about Uruguay, who must win to go through while a draw will be good enough for GB.

The Copa America champions came from a goal behind to beat the UAE 2-1 and were outplayed by 10-man Senegal as the African side pulled off a shock 2-0 win.

But Pearce remains wary of the South American team.

He warned: “You underestimate teams at your peril. Uruguay are still in the mix, so are we and Senegal. It’s all to play for.”