Dan Coker's Match Preview
Welcome to the ninth in a series of articles designed for international matches – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.
Today, as England prepare to face Belgium in their third and final group match of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, we look back at a former Hammers and England defender – Stuart Pearce. Hammersmith-born Pearce attended Fryent Primary school, followed by Claremont High in Kenton and supported QPR as a boy. An electrician by trade, he started his career at non-league Wealdstone in 1978 before moving to Coventry in 1983. Two years later he was signed by Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest and he would make over 400 appearances for the club, winning the League Cup in 1989 and 1990.
Pearce, whose brother Dennis was a Football League linesman, made his England debut at the age of 25 on 19th May 1987 in a 1-1 draw with Brazil at Wembley – he became the 999th player to appear for England. He scored his first goal for his country in a 4-2 friendly win over Czechoslovakia at Wembley on 25th April 1990 – ‘Ludo’ Miklosko, who had signed for West Ham two months previously, didn’t cover himself in glory for the goal, coming to collect a corner but failing to claim the ball with Pearce driving home the loose ball. Pearce was named in Bobby Robson’s squad for the 1990 World Cup in Italy and started all of England’s matches with the exception of the third-place play-off against the hosts. ‘Psycho’, as Pearce was nicknamed, saw his penalty in the semi-final shoot-out in Turin saved by the legs of West Germany’s Bodo Illgner.
With Graham Taylor now in charge, Pearce captained his country for the first time in a friendly against New Zealand in Wellington on 8th June 1991 – Pearce marked the occasion by scoring his second goal for his country in a 2-0 win, a low drive from the edge of the penalty area after a John Solako cross. Pearce started all three of England’s games in the 1992 European Championships in Sweden but the Three Lions were knocked out in the group stage. Taylor named Pearce as captain on eight occasions and he scored two further goals under his stewardship, in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Turkey on 18th November 1992 and a 3-0 win over Poland on 8th September 1993, both from free-kicks in World Cup qualifiers at Wembley. The latter strike came when Pearce was playing outside the top flight at club level following Nottingham Forest’s relegation.
Pearce scored his fifth and final England goal under Terry Venables in a 3-1 friendly win over Switzerland at Wembley on 15th November 1995, a deflected effort which flew into the net from the edge of the area following a short corner routine. He started all five of England’s games at Euro ’96, scoring in penalty shoot-outs against Spain in the quarter-finals and Germany in the semi-finals to lay the ghost of Turin to rest. His celebration after scoring from the spot against Spain showed the raw passion that embodied Pearce’s career and is an iconic moment, both for that tournament and in the history of the national team.
‘Psycho’ captained his country for the tenth and final time in a 2-1 win over South Africa at Old Trafford on 24th May 1997. Now 35 and playing under the management of Glenn Hoddle, Pearce was named in the squad for Le Tournoi, a tournament held in France to aid preparations for the World Cup there the following year. England won the competition, with Pearce starting the opening match against Italy, which England won 2-0.
Pearce turned down a move to the Hammers in 1997 to sign for Newcastle but did team up with Harry Redknapp two years later. While at Newcastle, Pearce was awarded an MBE for services to football. He made his Hammers debut in a 1-0 win over Tottenham on 7th August 1999, the opening day of the 1999/2000 season, and even made an England return in September 1999 at the age of 37 – he became the third-oldest outfield player to appear for England after Stanley Matthews and Leslie Compton. It had been over two years since Pearce had played for England, Kevin Keegan starting him in a 6-0 win over Luxembourg at Wembley on 4th September 1999 and a 0-0 draw in Poland four days later, both European Championship qualifiers. The match in Warsaw was Pearce’s last for England – he had captained his country on ten occasions, won 78 caps and scored five goals.
Pearce made five league appearances in claret and blue before suffering a broken leg against Watford three days after his final England match – typically, he wanted to carry on playing! He made a return to action in February 2000 but only lasted three games before breaking the same leg.
2000/01 saw better times for Pearce though. He scored his first goal for the club direct from a free-kick in a 2-1 home defeat to Arsenal on 21st October 2000, with his second goal for the Irons being a typically thunderous strike in a 3-2 win at Southampton on 25th November 2000. His third and final goal for the Hammers was a stunning, low, driven free-kick to make it 1-1 in an FA Cup quarter-final with Tottenham at a rain-drenched Upton Park on 11th March 2001, a game the Irons would sadly lose 3-2. He was sent off for two bookable offences in a 2-0 home defeat to Everton on 31st March 2001. Pearce played in 34 of the Irons’ Premier League matches, with a further eight appearances coming in the domestic cups. Pearce ended the season as a 39-year-old but had played 42 matches during the campaign at the top level of English football. He was named Premier League Player of the Month in February 2001 and voted Hammer of the Year at the end of the 2000/01 season.
After being beaten to the vacant managerial post at Upton Park by Glenn Roeder in the summer of 2001, Pearce left east London after three goals in 50 appearances to end his playing days with Manchester City, who romped to the First Division title and promotion to the Premier League under Kevin Keegan.
Pearce’s first stint as a manager had been as caretaker at Nottingham Forest in 1997. He became a coach under Keegan at Manchester City before becoming manager of the club in 2005. He became manager of the England Under-21 team in February 2007 whilst still in charge at City but was sacked by his club three months later, taking the England Under-21 job full time. He guided the Under-21s to the semi-finals of the European Championships in 2007 and the Final in 2009 – his captains at both tournaments were provided by the Hammers, Nigel Reo-Coker and Mark Noble respectively. He also worked as a coach with the England senior team under Fabio Capello and was temporary England manager between February and May 2012 after the Italian’s departure. Pearce also managed the Great Britain Olympic team at London 2012. He left his role as Under-21 manager in the summer of 2013 and spent seven months back in charge at Forest in the 2014/15 campaign.
After a spell working at Portsmouth, Pearce joined former club West Ham as an assistant to new manager David Moyes in November 2017 – having played a role in ensuring the Hammers’ top flight survival ‘Psycho’, now 56, left at the end of the 2017/18 season after Moyes’ contract was not renewed.
Belgium v England
England face Belgium this evening in their third and final group match of the 2018 World Cup – it will be the 22nd meeting between the two nations. The pair have met twice before in the World Cup, with the first match being a 4-4 draw in 1954. The second meeting starred the focus of today’s piece, Stuart Pearce, and came in front of 34,520 in Bologna, Italy, almost exactly 28 years ago, on 27th June 1990, in the second round of the 1990 World Cup. England New Order were number one with ‘World In Motion’, Pretty Woman topped the UK box office and sitcom Waiting For God made its BBC debut the following evening.
Bobby Robson’s England were on the back foot early on with Belgian captain Jan Ceulemans finding Bruno Versavel with a through-ball; Peter Shilton got down low to his left to push away his left-foot shot with Mark Wright beating Marc Degryse to the loose ball. Franky Van der Elst then found Degryse on the edge of the box, he in turn played the ball onto Ceulemans who bundled past Wright before smashing a left-foot shot against Shilton’s near post. Stuart Pearce’s cross then found John Barnes but his tame effort was straight at Michel Preud’homme in the Belgian goal. Barnes was involved again soon after, turning home Gary Lineker’s cross only to be denied by an offside flag.
The Belgians hit the woodwork again when Enzo Scifo’s stunning right-foot attempt from distance smacked against the inside of Shilton’s right-hand post. Chris Waddle then put Lineker through but the striker’s touch let him down and Preud’homme blocked with his feet. Pearce was again involved, finding substitute Steve Bull whose shot was deflected before being pushed round the post by Preud’homme.
With less than 90 seconds left of extra-time, Tottenham midfielder Paul Gascoigne surged through the centre of the field before being brought down by PSV right-back Eric Gerets. Gazza’s chipped free-kick deep into the Belgian penalty area found substitute David Platt, who hooked in a super volley as the ball dropped over his shoulder to win the tie for England and send them into the quarter-finals. England would defeat Cameroon in the last eight but would be knocked out by West Germany on penalties in the semi-final. It was 24-year-old Aston Villa midfielder Platt’s first of his 27 England goals, in the eighth of his 62 caps.
Belgian defender Lei Clijsters, who played that night, passed away from cancer in 2009 at the age of 52. He was the father of two tennis-playing daughters: US and Australian Open winner Kim Clijsters and Wimbledon doubles and US Open doubles champion Elke Clijsters.
England: Peter Shilton (Derby), Paul Parker (QPR), Des Walker (Nottingham Forest), Terry Butcher (captain, Rangers), Mark Wright (Derby), Stuart Pearce (Nottingham Forest), Chris Waddle (Marseille), Steve McMahon (Liverpool), Paul Gascoigne (Tottenham), John Barnes (Liverpool), Gary Lineker (Tottenham).
Subs: David Platt (Aston Villa) for McMahon; Steve Bull (Wolves) for Barnes.
Belgium: Michel Preud’homme (Mechelen), Eric Gerets (PSV), Stefan Demol (Porto), Lei Clijsters (Mechelen), Georges Grun (Anderlecht), Michel De Wolf (Kortrijk), Franky Van der Elst (Club Brugge), Bruno Versavel (Mechelen), Enzo Scifo (Auxerre), Marc Degryse (Anderlecht), Jan Ceulemans (captain, Club Brugge).
Subs: Nico Claesen (Antwerp) for Degryse; Patrick Vervoort (Anderlecht) for Versavel.
The previous articles in the series are: