Words: Alex Walker
Last month football fans across the country sat down in front of their television sets to cheer on a Nottingham and England legend. Stuart Pearce was battling it out with other athletes on BBC's Superstars.
Only a footballer with such legendary status as Pearce could have caused such a happening. Arsenal fans don't whoop with delight whenever Ian Wright presents the National Lottery or cringe when David Seaman takes a roasting on They Think It's All Over. Tottenham fans don't swell with pride every time Gary Lineker makes an insightful comment on Match of the Day.
At 41, Pearce struggled to keep up with the other Superstars athletes for most of the competition, but a strong finish on the mountain bikes gave him a respectable fourth place overall.
Butterworth was to struggle in the first team at centre back, soon to be replaced by the emerging Des Walker. Meanwhile, Pearce was atill working part time as an electrician and even advertised his services in the match programme. He soon became a regular in the team, however, and his only notable side-line was attending punk rock gigs.
It was only in the very last season of his 20 year career that he managed to pick up a league championship medal, helping
He was a vital part of two
He was nicknamed 'Psycho', owing to his resemblance to Norman Bates, although the mantle also happened to suit his fearsome, uncompromising attitude on the pitch. It was his loyalty and commitment that endeared him to the fans so much.
During the Superstars show the focus was on Pearce's personality. He was the joker in the pack - "Don't ping it on me lugs," he pleaded during some swimming cap capers. He would have been excused finishing last place amongst the younger competitors, but he surprised everyone with just how fit he still was.
Pearce was always more than just a strong personality. Other football 'characters' come and go, but he proved to be the best English left back of his generation.
He was tough and unforgiving in the tackle, but never dirty. He charged up the left wing like a steam train - not only were the opposition's attackers afraid of him, but the full-backs had to be wary too.
He also had a nack for scoring thunderous free-kicks, netting at Wembley and Old Trafford in famous games with his hammer of a left foot.
That hammer sometimes got him into trouble though. His penalty miss in the 1990 world cup haunted him for six years until he put the ghosts to rest by drilling home two spot-kicks during Euro 96.
The outburst that followed is one of the defining images of Pearce's career - his passion for club and country on show for everyone to see.
Euro 96 was the moment when the country woke up to what
He had just recovered from one broken leg and was making his comeback for West Ham when the unthinkable happened and he broke it again. Not only did Pearce finish the game, he made a full recovery from the second break. At the age of 39, the club's physios had given him little chance of playing again, but he went on to make over 50 appearances for the Hammers.
When he came back to
At the moment Pearce is coaching at
His time as player-manager at Forest in 1997 showed he wasn't ready. He recalls picking the team for his first match in charge and neglecting a goalkeeper (his wife Liz pointed out the oversight).
He started well and was voted Manager of the Month, in his first month. But the early success didn't last and Forest were relegated from the Premiership that season. Six years later, with coaching badges under his belt, the time may be right for Pearce to go into full-time management. The press have linked him to a number of clubs recently and many hope he may one day return to Forest with the experience to manage them successfully.
If the reaction across Nottinghamshire households during half an hour of prime-time television was anything to go by, Stuart Pearce at the helm again would be a sight sure to fill the City Ground.
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