Stuart Pearce, the bookmakers second favourite and many England (and Tottenham) fans’ favourite to replace Fabio Capello as the next permanent England manager.
Unfortunately for the 78-time England international, he doesn’t have the credentials to become England manager in my book. And you can throw names like Jürgen Klinsmann, Diego Maradona and Marco van Basten at me and I’ll still defend my case. Here’s why:
Stuart Pearce’s Club Management Record Speaks for Itself
1. Nottingham Forest
Whilst I was busy enjoying Derby County’s 12th place finish in their first season in the Premier League, Nottingham Forest were struggling at the bottom. Frank Clark, who had guided them into the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup (and a humiliating thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich) the previous season, resigned in December 1996.
In came left back Stuart Pearce as player/manager. Whilst he guided the team to a victory over Arsenal on his debut, and three consecutive victories in January, he would go on to win 1 of 15 after that (albeit with the club’s backroom a bit of a mess and Dave Bassett being appointed as general manager from February). Nottingham Forest finished 20th, becoming the first team to finish bottom of the Premier League twice (and hold the record of 3 times today).
Stuart Pearce duly stepped down and ended his twelve year playing career with the Reds to find new life as Newcastle United’s left back under Kenny Dalglish.
2. Manchester City
Pearce would wait nearly 8 years for another job in management. And it came in March 2005 at Manchester City after the resignation of Kevin Keegan. Pearce had been Keegan’s assistant, so the board gave him the chance for the remaining games (this was before they were rich by the way). He started his career with 4 wins in their remaining 9 games; finishing 8th. That landed the former England captain the job.
In his first full season, with the likes of Ben Thatcher, Danny Mills and Georgios Samaras on the books (he also had David James, Joey Barton, an ageing Andrew Cole, and Richard Dunne), a famous 3-1 victory over Manchester United was recorded, and that was about it really. Manchester City finished 15th and Pearce was still landing a lot of plaudits. The ones I recall were mainly focussed around his touchline antics rather than the football that was being played.
The following season would define Pearce in my eyes. Despite an early season victory over Arsenal there was never any consistency. Ok, three wins on the bounce over the holiday season (1-0 at Sheffield United and West Ham, and 2-1 at home to Everton on New Year’s Day). The brace from Samaras on New Year’s Day would be the last goals Pearce would see as Manchester City boss. No, he was not booted out just yet. But his side failed to score in any of their final 8 games, picking up just 2 points along the way. Home defeats included Blackburn, Reading and Wigan. Although they managed a 0-0 draw with Charlton.
1 win in his final 8 games saw City finish 14th that season. Stuart Pearce’s side managed just 10 goals at home that season and 29 overall (joint-low with bottom place Watford), and was duly sacked at the end of the season, a month before the takeover by Thaksin Shinawatra.
Stuart Pearce’s England under 21 Reign
Before being fired at club level, ‘Psycho’ had taken on the duties of England under 21 coach from February 2007; initially part-time.
His career began with a 2-2 draw with Spain’s under 21s at Pride Park and he would go 2 years undefeated as coach before losing to Ecuador in a friendly. Pearce got the job full-time after guiding the youngsters to the semi-finals of the 2007 European Championships losing 13-12 to the Netherlands (the game where Netherlands equalised in the 89th minute, Steven Taylor played on despite barely being able to walk, and Anton Ferdinand clipped the top of the crossbar with England’s last penalty). Progress to the semi-final in an 8-nation tournament came via 1 victory and 2 draws in the group stage, against the Czech Republic (0-0), Italy (2-2) and Serbia (2-0).
Some of the talent in 2007 included Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Joe Hart, Tom Huddlestone, James Milner, Nedum Onuoha and Ashley Young. Ryan Babel, Otman Bakkal, Daniël de Ridder, Royston Drenthe and Gianni Zuiverloon all started for the Dutch in the final.
Qualification for the next tournament, in 2009 was a breeze for Pearce’s side. Managing the under 21 side seemed easy. 6 points over Bulgaria, Ireland and Montenegro in qualifying group earned a playoff match with Wales, which England edged out Wales 5-4 on aggregate and soon enough Pearce was flying the boys out to Sweden in 2009.
Victories over Finland and Spain in the group stage meant Pearce could play the backups in the final group game against the German’s. Both sides played out a 1-1 draw to ensure qualification to the semis, and Pearce even manage to use all 23 squad players by the end of the group too.
England managed to throw away a 3-0 half time lead against the hosts in the semi-final, but fortunately for Pearce and his job, he managed to win one in an England shirt for the first time in his career. Kieran Gibbs got the winner after Joe Hart had scored earlier.
Scott Loach was in goal for the final and as usually the case with Stuart Pearce in an England shirt, the German’s got the better of him. In fact, Germany humiliated England with a 4-0 thrashing in the final. In hindsight, their squad did include Manuel Neuer, Andreas Beck, Benedikt Howedes, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil.
Last summer was the icing on the cake as far as Stuart Pearce’s under 21 side goes. His third major tournament in charge, with arguably his most talented batch of players. And a tournament where the Germans, French and Italians had all failed to qualify.
Despite being battered in terms of possession in the opening game, Danny Welbeck grabbed a late goal to rescue a point for England against Spain. Pearce admitted himself after the game that England needed to improve. He was right on that count, but the team never did improve from there.
England were held 0-0 by Ukraine in their second group game. A victory over Czech Republic in the final group game was required to progress to a third straight semi-final. Leading 1-0 with a couple of minutes remaining, England blew it late on, as often seemed to be the case for Pearce’s boys. Jan Chramosta (I just asked the same three-letter question) equalised in the 89th minute before Tomas Pekhart won the game for the Czech’s in the 94th minute.
After three uninspiring performances and an early exit at Euro 2009, Stuart Pearce remained in charge of the England under 21s (with his assistant Steve Wigley) and still holds that position today. In fact, he also has the job of being the Great Britain manager at the Olympics later this year and is now caretaker manager of England. I wonder if he will turn a job down?
So a manager with 2 League Cup winners medals to his name, a few runners up medals and not a lot else going for him is the second favourite for the England national job. Doesn’t it say something to the FA that our country is in a bit of a mess at the moment? Here’s how their latest meeting went:
I suppose it could be worse… Tony Adams was in line to be Fabio’s assistant before Pearce got the job…