Despite being a national hero and an iconic figure who seemed to personify what it meant to pull on an England shirt, Stuart Pearce remains an unpopular choice for most to step in to the breach and become the new England manager for the Euro’s or even on a full time basis. Pearce has experienced England as a player, manager and coach and is one of few to have done this, whilst also boasting practical tournament experience. You would think this makes him a strong candidate for the position, but according to public opinion, it doesn’t.
One of the most iconic pictures you can see as an England fan was Stuart Pearce’s celebration after he put away his pressure penalty in Euro’96. Pearce showed a multitude of emotions in those few moments, none more so than the passion, desire and pride he had for his country. He also showed the courage, bottle and leadership to step up and take that penalty knowing full well he had missed one in the all important match of Italia’90, sealing England’s exit from the competition. He emerged from Euro’96 forever endeared in the hearts of England fans, a man that could walk the length and breadth of country and command respect from everyone he passed on the street. How times change.
Pearce does have a good pedigree and a unique bond with the ‘real world’ that few in football can boast. Stuart Pearce started his football career playing part-time for Wealdstone and working as an electrician and plumber, a far cry from the luxuries that young millionaire-footballers enjoy today. He is from the school of hard knocks and knew exactly what England is all about having grown up just a couple of miles from Wembley stadium. Up until the age of 21, Stuart Pearce was as real life as you or I.
His Professional career started when former Wales manager, Bobby Gould, gave him his chance with Coventry, before Brian Clough bought him to Nottingham Forest where he quickly became club-captain and a club legend during his best period as a pro. He played under Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit at Newcastle, Harry Redknapp whilst at West Ham and captained Manchester City under Kevin Keegan.
Internationally Pearce made England’s left back slot his own for over a decade, he was one of the first on the teamsheet after Bobby Robson promoted him to the starting lineup. Not only did he play under the great Bobby Robson, he also played for Terry Venables, Graham Taylor, Glenn Hoddle and Peter Taylor, whilst working closely with Fabio Capello.
Pearce may not have won a league title or any European cups as a player, but he has bags of experience domestically and internationally in big tournaments. Pearce also has played for a host of the best managers that English football has seen and has even played for fellow England candidate Harry Redknapp. You would hope he learned something from all of them.
The main criticism aimed at Pearce comes from his short managerial career. He was an interim manager at Nottingham Forest and after a stint as caretaker manager, he picked up the reins at Manchester City at a time when the club was a far cry from the club it is now, with a squad littered with aging stars that needed rebuilding as he brought through Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge as well as bringing Joe Hart to the club. Sven took over, backed by the riches of Thai owner Thaksin Shinawatra, and didn’t do anything particularly good with City – Pearce’s performance at City, his first as a real manager, was no disgrace.
As England under-21 manager he guided the young lions to a semi-final place in the 2007 UEFA under-21’s Championship, only losing to Holland’s under-21’s on penalties, whilst he took the under-21’s to the final in the 2009 UEFA under-21’s Championships, the only final the team has reached since they won the tournament in 1984. Pearce’s side massively under-achieved at the 2011 tournament and admittedly Pearce had a bad tournament when it came to tactics and selection, but it can happen with a group of young players on the back of a full-on Premier League campaign.
Pearce’s playing record is good enough, especially with his England experience, his management career, which can only really be judged on his time as England under-21 manager, has been largely successful. Harry Redknapp in comparison cannot boast such a history, doing very little as a player and never representing England. As a manager, Redknapp has won minimal amounts over a nearly 30-year career. So why is Pearce largely unfavoured for the England post?
The press drive a lot of opinion in this country: it is funny how Pearce’s racism incident with Paul Ince 18 years ago was recently brought up – this was nothing more than a move by the opposition to discredit a contender, it is no different from dirty politics. The snipers are already out after Pearce did not announce who his captain would be for the Holland game the day before the match. For Pearce this was just a matter of protocol that he always follows, for the press it was two-fingers up at them and therefore the nation and something that could unsettle the team despite the players saying otherwise.
The truth is Stuart Pearce’s relationship with the press is not great, they have found him moody and difficult to deal with at times – a far cry from a jovial (most of the time) Harry Redknapp, who the press can enjoy and someone who they want to manage England.
What do people want in an England manager? Passion, pride, honour, honesty, someone who knows what it means to wear and play for that legendary England shirt. Pearce fits all of these categories. England are in a transitional phase with youngsters that Pearce has worked with for years starting to become the new England stars as a generation of under-achieving, albeit high-quality, players fades. The truth is Stuart Pearce is an England legend and hero and should be an equal contender for the position after years of grooming for it.
The media seem to have their hearts set on Harry Redknapp and they will drive the opinion of those in the nation who cannot make up their own minds. There have been too many ‘years of hurt’ and Pearce IS a risk. Redknapp is older and more experienced, plus with a glowing reputation as a manager who can man-manage (all you need really internationally) you can see why Redknapp could get the nod. On merit, few deserve a shot at the role more than Pearce, but we all know that this is football and opinions count, but in the end do we really care about England anymore? Whoever takes the role has a job to galvanise a nation.