Pearce was relieved of his duties following a disastrous Euro 2013 campaign which saw the Young Lions lose all three of their group games.
| ENGLAND UNDER-21 LATEST
|7/1||England U21s are 7/1 with Coral to beat Moldova U21s 5-0 on September 5
"I have spoken to him three or four times over the last month and he has been brilliant," Southgate told the Daily Mail.
"He always said it was a job he loved. I didn’t play with anybody more passionate and prepared to give everything for his country than Stuart.
"I know he was proud to do this role, so it is awkward for me to follow him. But after discussions with him, he felt I should apply. That made it acceptable for me.
"I would have been a little bit uncomfortable applying for it had we not had that conversation because we know each other so well."
Southgate also confirmed that he has given up his role as a pundit for ITV.
He explained: "I didn’t want people thinking if it wasn’t going well I had the life raft. I wanted to show I am fully committed to the job."