Forest Legends: Stuart Pearce
The word 'legend' is much overused in football speak, but in the case of one Stuart Pearce, it doesn't do the fella justice. Because if anyone has ever played for Forest, given more to the cause and reaped more success, then I'd like to meet him. Stuart Pearce, is without doubt not only a Forest legend, but an England legend taboot.
He was given the nickname 'Psycho' by the City Ground faithful, for his no nonsense style of play. He had a tackle best avoided and most visiting strikers learned to do just that. But there was so much more to this young Cockney upstart than a bruising tackler with thighs the size of tree trunks. He could play.
He was brought to the City Ground by the Great Man in 1985 from Coventry City and by 1987 he'd made his full England debut. He soon became a crowd favourite and would always give his trademark clenched fist salute to the 'A' Block before every home game. It became the norm for those sat in that part of the ground to get a close up of the opposition striker within 5 mins of the game starting. Thanks to the fact that Pearce would have them wrapped around the advertising hoardings, courtesy of his 'welcome to the City Ground tackle.'
There can be no doubt that Pearce was a hard man as he did possess an uncompromising tackle, but there was more to his game than that. He played the roll of wingback with ease and could cross the ball from the by line and pick out his man with a pin point pass. He had a shot on him like an express train and he managed to find some of the best keepers in the world wanting with his free kicks. Some of his most memorable goals were from dead ball situations and more than matched those of Roberto Carlos or David Beckham. Who can forget the bullet he scored in the 91' Cup Final at Wembley? That though, was just one of many.
His international career hit the rocks in 1990 after a penalty miss helped knock England out of the World Cup in a semi final penalty shoot out against the old foe, Germany. Pearce was one of the red hot favourites to score from the spot, but hit his shot straight at the legs of the German keeper. Psycho's despair was felt by the nation as we all wept as one. Pearce later said in his autobiography. 'My world collapsed, I had been taking penalties for as long as I could remember, but now I`d missed the most important penalty of my life.'
By 1991 he was the England captain and an ever present in the side. The 92 Euro Championships saw him come up against France and a certain Basil Boli. The giant Frenchman headbutted Pearce, without the ref noticing and the player got away Scott free. Pearce was visibly angry and had to wipe blood from his face. You gave Boli 5 mins max on the pitch before 'Psycho' sent him to the treatment room. But the England captain surprised us all when he just got up and continued with the game. Within minutes he'd rattled a shot against the bar and was getting the better of Boli on the pitch. You wouldn't have blamed him for decking the Frenchman, such was the ferocity of the headbutt, but Pearce showed he was better than that and beat his man by playing football.
When Euro 96' came to town Pearce was not in Terry Venables thoughts, having been displaced by Graham Le Saux, but he broke his leg just before the tournament and Pearce got a recall. The rest as they say is history. The penalty shoot out against Spain has gone down in football folklore and with it memories of Pearce with his clenched fist salute to the crowd. That day he buried the heartache of Turin and won a place in the hearts of every football fan in the country when he burst the back of the net with his shot.
He won countless trophies with the Reds and scored countless classic goals, some of them match winners. He made 522apps, and scored 88 goals for us. Whilst for England he made 78 apps and scored 5 goals. Not bad for a left back. It's testament to the guy that after 12 years service to the Reds, he was given a testimonial game at the City Ground against Newcastle United. The stadium was packed that night as we all turned out to pay homage to the man who in my opinion is the greatest ever player to wear the Garibaldi.
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