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By ESPN Staff

Pearce pledges to back controversial Barton

Stuart Pearce has pledged to back Joey Barton 'all the way' as the row over the Manchester City man's tackle on Pedro Mendes at Fratton Park last Saturday continues to rumble on.

Although the FA are still investigating allegations that Barton made obscene gestures as he left the field following City's 2-1 defeat, Soho Square chiefs have confirmed they will take no further action over the midfielder's tackle because referee Mike Dean cautioned him at the time.

That has not stopped Pompey boss Harry Redknapp reigniting the debate, insisting Barton should receive a three-match ban and declaring anyone who felt the new England international had accidentally trodden on Mendes' Achilles 'needed their head examining'.

Redknapp has already been landed by one improper conduct charge after being sent to the stands following an altercation with Dean at half-time.

And his latest comments are sure to infuriate City, especially as Pearce believes Barton has no case to answer.

'There have been times when Joey has been out of line and I have let him know that, but this is not one of them,' Pearce told the Manchester Evening News.

'If Joey has done wrong, he knows that I will tell him. That is the only way people learn.

'But I will back him all the way in this instance.'

Pearce feels Barton is now paying the price for his past misdemeanours.

The Huyton-born star, who earned his first full cap in last week's friendly against Spain, has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons on too regular a basis in the past.

However, Pearce has been quick to praise Barton for the efforts he has made to eradicate some of the rougher edges of his character and feels the 24-year-old must be aware of those who have agendas against him.

'He now knows people are looking out for him, so he has to be doubly clever about everything he does,' added Pearce.

'He has to tread that line that is absolutely foolproof and let his football do the talking.'

Meanwhile, Pearce is facing a striker crisis ahead of Sunday's FA Cup fifth-round encounter with Preston at Deepdale.

Paul Dickov has already been ruled out with a broken foot and now Pearce has confirmed Darius Vassell is a major doubt with a hamstring problem too.

With neither of the obvious alternatives, Bernardo Corradi and Georgios Samaras, getting anywhere near top form this term, Pearce could yet turn to 17-year-old academy graduate Daniel Sturridge, who made his first team debut in the recent home defeat by Reading.

'If Darius fails to make it then it might nudge Daniel closer to the 16 or even the starting line up,' Pearce told the club's website.

'The one thing that he knows is that there is not an awful lot of traffic in front of him and he might get his chance.'