Stuart Pearce is a player symbolic of the Nottingham Forest traditions. He is everything that playing for the football club should epitomise and, in my mind, he’s one of the best three players to ever play for us.
Going off topic just ever so slightly, who can forget his first game in charge as the club’s manager? That YouTube classic of Pearce walking out of the tunnel to take his place in the dugout for the first time. To this day, it still sends shivers down my spine thinking about it. Wow.
I was also fortunate enough to meet Pearce at a function at Mansfield Town Football Club in 2019. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes but our former left-back quashes that notion as soon as you meet him.
He’s warm, friendly and would quite simply talk football with you all night. Get him started on the trials and tribulations of Nottingham Forest and you could lose an hour in the blink of an eye.
Back to his time as a player and I admit that as a 33-year-old supporter, it’s fair to say my dad saw more of him during his prime. I can, however, recall a few years in the nineties where he led Forest with aplomb.
I have picked a goal that remains a YouTube classic for me, however, although the video gets turned off in disgust shortly after Pearce’s moment of brilliance.
Quite how Forest didn’t lift the FA Cup in 1991 remains a mystery. I say that, it’s not a mystery; the Reds didn’t win the piece of silverware which eluded Brian Clough due to Roger Milford’s incapability to referee a game of football properly.
The controversial referee was obviously a big fan of Paul Gascoigne and in failing to send him off for a woeful challenge on Gary Charles he handed Tottenham a foothold into the game.
To give you an indication of how bad the tackle was, Gascoigne ruptured his own ACL and was stretchered off the field. Milford obviously felt sorry for the England legend and chose not to rub the necessary salt in the wounds.
Pearce’s goal during that final is a thing of beauty though and who doesn’t love watching a well struck free-kick smash into the back of the net?
What I love about the highlights is the commentary of John Motson. His line of ‘oh, it’s in’ is basically in such a tone that he’d been rehearsing it for months. Football people around that time knew that handing Forest – and Pearce, in particular – a free-kick from that distance was almost as good as a penalty.
On this occasion he strode forward and planted an unstoppable effort into Erik Thorstvedt’s net from 25 yards.
How he managed to get such power on the ball and keep it below the crossbar was remarkable and his calm and composed celebration just added to the brilliance.
Of course, things went south for Forest after that and with Tottenham allowed to continue with their full quota of players, they came from behind to win the game.
I wasn’t there to witness Pearce’s goal and I can only dream of what it must feel like to celebrate a Forest strike in a showpiece final at the national stadium.
The fact that Pearce was no frills and simply loved representing the football club makes him the icon that he is at the City Ground.
He served the club with distinction as a player and although his time as our manager didn’t go according to plan in my eyes his reputation stays intact.
Pearce wore his heart on his sleeve every time he pulled on the Garibaldi and they simply don’t make them like Psycho anymore.