I will concede that it is an odd choice on the face of it for a favourite player of all time. He was never the most technically gifted or intelligent footballer that walked the earth but what he did possess was far more valuable: commitment and loyalty.
It is these two increasingly rare attributes that have endeared him to fans the length and breadth of the country whilst also handing him legendary status in my hometown on Nottingham.
A young Pearce signed for Forest in 1985 where he would eventually go on to play a vital role in two impressive Forest sides that frequently verged on brilliance. Frustratingly, however, Cloughie’s great side of the late 1980s and Frank Clark’s European qualifying team of 1995 both failed to fulfil their true potential leaving Pearce with very few medals to show for 12 years distinguished service at the City Ground.
His commitment and never-say-die attitude on the pitch earned him the affectionate nickname Psycho and he was the country’s first choice left back from 1988-1996. He spent most of his 12 years in the East Midlands leading the line as skipper whilst goalkeepers quacked in their boots at the thought of his thunderous free kicks.
But, the defining image of his career will always be the emotional outburst that followed his conversion of a penalty against Spain at Wembley in the Quarter Finals of Euro 96. His hard-headedness and drive to overcome adversity were shown brilliantly that day when he finally laid to rest the ghosts of missing a spotkick in the shoot out against Germany in World Cup 1990. The feeling of inadequacy and the pain of defeat had hung over him from that night in Turin sparking the most remarkable show of raw passion even seen on a football field. As he turned to acknowledge the crowd, he suddenly erupted, his face contorted by all out aggression and the relief of scoring. He was overcome by the feelings of triumphalism combined with nationalistic fervour as he willed England to go all the way. He would repeat the feat against Germany in the Semi Final only to further demonstrate why he was one of the strongest and most courageous characters in the English football in the 1990s.
He was and still is a good sportsman to boot and developed an admirable reputation during his managerial days at Manchester City for being unusually fair and honest. The instructions he would issue to his players not to question or harass referees were probably a hangover from working under Brian Clough.
Now England U21 manager, there is increasing and quite justified call for Psycho to impart some of his much-needed backbone and desire to win on our current crop of internationals by taking over from Mr Capello.
He can count on my vote.
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