Psycho – That Forest Man
Left back, left wing, centre forward.
Worn heart on sleeve, entirely faithful, lived and died for the club.
You know that skill, of running out of a tunnel and then waving both arms aloft and clenching your fist at the stand opposite and showing with your face, that this stuff mattered to you, as much as it did to us, the fans?
Thighs like thunder, as hard as rock.
Stuart Pearce. Let me explain Stuart to you first. My birth certificate reads Mark Stewart Collar. Now I have an immediate issue with that. Mark Collar was perfect for nicknaming. ‘You’ve got a mark on your collar’.
My first name and surname wasn’t easy, now my middle name was Stewart, Ed Stewpot Stewart. Fat thighs and giving a poor flacid account of myself on the football field. As if I ate too much stew. From a very young age I detested my middle name. It gave even more ammunition to the nicknamers. I went to see the local vicar about it. I asked Radio Nottingham’s Edward Peter Bailey if I could have some kind of rechristening to change it. He told me names did not work that way. If I wanted to change it for now I should just use the other form, and so Mark Stuart Collar was born. Stuart was the name of a Royal house. I was happy with that. I completely forgot about it after a year and went on to worrying about something else.
As a ‘returning’ Forest fan around 1989, I found Stuart Pearce completely irresistible. Psycho was so good I named my kitten after him. We had a Psycho cat living in our house for the next fourteen years.
Psycho. Stuart Pearce. What a captain, what a leader, what a man with heart running through him like thunder. It was awesome having Psycho in your team.
The key to the man was that he understood that the heart of every football club is its fans. This reluctant legend, who played with the heart of a bull and a passion that was so clear to see, really cared about the people that cared the most about the team: the fans. He played with his heart on his sleeve and let us live every goal; every crunching tackle; every scything free kick.
Stuart Pearce was an electrician who played for his local semi-professional side Wealdstone in the Alliance Premier League. He made 242 appearances for the club over five years in a run that had seen the team promoted and achieve cup success. At first he played as a central defender, then at left back, and he could score goals.
Coventry signed him for £25,000 and he adapted well to the move from non-League to First Division so much so that Alan Hill was soon asking to see him and a phone call from Cloughie came through. Forest were paying £450,000 for him and Ian Butterworth. Butterworth was the real Taylor target, Pearce was an addition. Butterworth made 27 appearances for Forest before moving on to make his name at Norwich City. Meanwhile Pearce became the Joe Baker/Ian Storey-Moore/Duncan McKenzie Forest God.
From 1985 to 1996 Psycho was the living breath of Nottingham Forest. Every Forest fan’s greatest team would have Pearce at 3 and Robertson at 11. This actually happened six times in the 1985/6 season. On August 11, 1985, a team of Segers, McInally, Pearce, Butterworth, Walker, Hodge, Webb, Birtles, Davenport, Robertson lined up away at Luton and drew 1-1. This was the period of Robbo’s return to the club from Derby County, which he himself said was ‘never the same’, but for the record the Pearce/Robertson partnership won three, drew one and lost two, finishing with a 2-0 home win against Luton with goals from Clough and Webb.
At this time Pearce was still uncertain enough of his future in football to be advertising his services in the Forest programme as an electrician. Clough brought him a kettle and a toaster to mend. Psycho failed to explain to Clough that a toaster mend was not an electrician’s job. Pearce had to call on team mate Brian Rice at one point to help him work on a loft conversion. Number one is Brian Rice and the loft is as good as sorted.
Pearce was a tradesman. He was one of us. His pre-match routine involved loud punk music. He appeared on the cover of a Lurkers album and loved Joe Strummer and the Clash. He once introduced the Sex Pistols on stage. Even his music had a real hard edge.
Stuart Pearce received 78 caps for England. His appearance in the 1998 game against Poland made him the third oldest outfield player to appear for England in a full International. In Euro 1990 it was penalty misses by Pearce and Waddle that cost England a place in the World Cup Final. Pearce had an excellent tournament up until that point. He left the field against Germany after the penalty miss in tears and a completely shattered man. The whole nation witnessed this.
For the first three games of the next season, Pearce did not play. Brett Williams was his deputy until the Southampton game at the City Ground on September 8, 1990. Brett Williams was a comic character if you were a Forest fan. He had a Monty Python moustache. We had loaned him out to Stockport, Northampton, Hereford, Oxford and Stoke when Stoke were in the gutter.
The returning Pearce received a rapturous welcome on to the pitch from the home fans. He had said at this time that people were tremendously supportive and kind about his World Cup disappointment. I was sitting at the back of the Executive Stand in the far corner nearest to the away fans. A very fat, very loud, middle aged man was sitting next to me in the home end wearing a Southampton club tie and scarf. It was either very brave or completely stupid when he shouted, ‘Pearcy cost us the World Cup!’
Fans all around began arguing and shouting at him until a steward took him away. I am not saying that this man started the Pearce chants, but this was the first one I heard. The season for Pearce must have been horrendous. Every game the chants were ‘Stuart Pearce is a German.’ It is a testimony to the strength of the man that in that season he made 33 appearances and scored 11 goals from the left back position. Forest finished eighth in the league and got to the FA Cup final. It was no great surprise when Pearce was voted Forest’s ‘Player of the Season’ – he is the only player at Forest to have won that award three times.
In the terrible season of 1993, which saw a Clough team relegated for the first time, Pearce spent much of the season injured. He had tried to negotiate a new contract with Clough. Clough later claimed Pearce had been greedy and wanted signing on payments of a hundred thousand pounds for every season that he stayed at the club. Pearce later said that after Clough had missed several opportunities to negotiate a new contract, Clough had spent the rest of the season refusing to speak to him. Clough didn’t like having injured players around the ground. Roy Keane described Pearce as ‘a man amongst boys’ at Forest. What was most astonishing was that as Forest fell into the second flight, Pearce stayed, opting to continue his international career from the second tier of the English league. It was a Pearce side that quickly earned promotion back to the top division under Frank Clark and finished third in the league, taking a UEFA cup place.
When Clark resigned, Pearce became Forest manager. His first game against Arsenal was a 2-1 win and he was made ‘Manager of the Month’ for his first month as Forest manager. The fans, for a while, could dream again but sadly the season finished with an inevitable relegation. Forest were in the middle of a takeover and finances were a mess. At one stage in a move reminiscent of Clough, Pearce offered to lend the club a quarter of a million pounds to avoid having to sell players.
At this point, playing in the second tier again at the age of 34 would certainly mean the end of his international career and he was forced to join Newcastle United. In his autobiography Pearce said that he would rather go on the dole than play for Derby County:
No disrespect to Derby, but I have to say I could never work for that club in any capacity. And I mean never. People might say I’m being ridiculous but that’s just the way it is. Even if I was desperate and they were the only club around, I couldn’t do it. I’d rather go on the dole and take my chances. Away at Derby used to be the highlight of the season for me. I used to walk out at the Baseball Ground and give their fans a girly wave. Then it would be over to the Forest fans to give them a proper salute. I’d do the same in front of the Kop at Anfield as well – just to stoke up that little extra bit of ill feeling, you understand? There would be old woman at Derby shouting and screaming at me, coins landing round my feet and people spitting at me whenever I turned my back to take a throw-in. Christ, they bloody hated me. But, for me, that’s what football’s all about. I would think: ‘Yeah, that’s right, give me as good as you can – I’m representing that lot in the corner over there.’ Honestly, I used to love nothing more than walking out at a ground when you knew everyone hated your guts.
What player could have done more to achieve the legendary status for the fans that adore him to this day?