Stuart Pearce admitted England may have been paralysed by fear in their opening two European Under-21 Championship matches, just as he was at the start of his first World Cup.
But Pearce was adamant that, as he and his team-mates managed at Italia 90, his Young Lions would overcome their nerves and qualify for the semi-finals. England's results at this month's tournament in Denmark - 1-1 and 0-0 draws - have mirrored exactly those of their senior counterparts 21 years ago.
So former England left-back Pearce urged his squad's critics to cut them some slack, saying: "I'm fortunate enough to have trodden the same path as these players. I've gone to a World Cup and into the first group game. You're scared stiff."
And the performances have been equally uninspiring, with an improvement essential in their final Group B game against the Czech Republic on Sunday if they are to avoid crashing out of the tournament.
The 1990 side also had to win their final group match to qualify for the knockout stages, which they did before gradually developing into potential world champions, but Pearce added: "A few years before that, I was an electrician, so the experience had come on me very quickly.
"I had 20 senior caps going into that game but I didn't play particularly well. When I came in after the game, Bobby Robson looked at me and asked, 'Where is Stuart Pearce?'.
"I said I didn't know, that I hadn't played well and I was a bit nervous. He just turned around and told me that he had given me 20 caps not to be nervous.
"Even after the 20 caps and starting against Brazil in my first game, nothing prepares you for stepping out at a World Cup. For all these boys, this is the biggest tournament they have ever played in."
The knockout stages in 1990 saw an England transformed and Pearce believes the same could happen to his side with victory on Sunday.
"If we got out the group by winning this game then the manner in which we do it will galvanise us," he said. "If we beat the Ukraine, having drawn against Spain, then drew this game and went through, then I don't think the momentum would have galvanised us the same."
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