Psycho killer, qu’est que ce

2 Apr

Ian Butterworth.

I recall at the time, in my tender years, my excitement of learning that he had signed for us from Coventry City back in 1985. At least I had heard of him, unlike the chancer that was also joining us from the Sky Blues – some chancer called Pearce. Ah well, I thought, at least Butterworth has a friend with him to make him feel at home.

It is difficult to express how much Stuart Pearce means to Forest fans, especially those of a certain age. All clubs have heroes and for a variety of different reasons: long service, a particularly memorable or important goal, passion in every performance, a local lad done well, outrageous talent. But perhaps what distinguishes Stuart Pearce from other heroes and elevates him above others is that the rest of the country eventually came around to way of thinking and saw him for the hero that he is as we jumped from our sofa and proudly declared that ‘he’s ours, he is – that’s why we love him. Do you get it now? Do you see?

And everyone finally did get it.

Of course, that moment arose from THAT penalty against Spain in 1996. But let’s contextualise for a moment. Back in 1990 and the semi-final against West Germany. As he stepped up take that penalty, I proudly declared to my non-Forest supporting friends (I grew up in Rotherham – stop sniggering, someone has to) that he would score – he always does.

He didn’t and I felt distraught. That wasn’t right. He DID always score and I had seen it loads of times and he’s even better at free kicks too. I wasn’t angry at Stuart Pearce, nor felt let down – just that what I saw wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t fair as that wasn’t really him – he doesn’t do that and now he’ll be remembered for that.

Three years earlier, I had been at Wembley to watch England play Brazil in a friendly. There was only one reason why we traipsed down south on a school night for a friendly and it had very little to do with the opposition. The general consensus was that he was too raw and would get cautioned too often and caught out at this level. But we knew better.

But the whole England thing is only part of the love for Stuart Pearce. The whole clenched fist thing prior to kick off never once looked contrived. It expressed the feeling that he loved playing football for this club, felt honoured and lucky to be doing so and was damn well going to give his all since it was the least to be done for that lot chanting his name.

And there were the tackles too. Oh my word, the tackles. Ask Ted McMinn. Ask Pat van den Hauwe. Ask Paul Reid. Admittedly, some of these tackles are probably best described as assaults but we loved them. But these tackles didn’t happen every week – if they did, he would have had a much worse disciplinary record than he did. Those types of tackles were designed to get the crowd going, to stoke up an atmosphere, to win the game. NOT, it must be stated, to ‘do’ someone or deliberately inure them. He was cuter than that. He had to be otherwise he wouldn’t have enjoyed the longevity that he did.

And those goals. Lordy, those goals. And not just penalties or free kicks either. A typical Stuart Pearce goal would be a marauding run from left back, an inside ball to Nigel’s feet, a buckling run past the opposition full back, a return ball from Nigel and a powerful yet placed shot into the net. And the free kicks? Well, you’ve seen most of them but that one against Manchester United that shut the Stretford End up post Italia 90 was delicious. The way he walloped it into the top corner from 30 yards and just walked nonchalantly off – he didn’t need to run up to the United fans and stand there celebrating – he’d done his job and if they didn’t recognise him as a superb player then that’s their tough luck.

And I am only really scratching the surface here: there’s the loyalty in staying with us when we went down in 1991, the way he lead us straight back up, the testimonial, the way Kevin Keegan ranted how ‘to say that about players like Stuart Pearce, I’ll tell you something, I’d bloody love it’, the playing on for West Ham with a broken leg (a broken leg!), that hat he wore after the League Cup win against Luton Town, his short shorts…the list is endless…add your own memory.

So what to make of such a Hyperion taking the reins at the City Ground?

Initially, a whirlwind of conflicting emotions: excitement and pride mixed in with apprehension and nervousness. After all, with only a few rare exceptions, the time will come when the football fan expresses dissatisfaction with the manager and bandies about phrases such as ‘lost the dressing room’ and ‘tactically inept’ or ‘get out of our club before you drag it down to the lowest depths of Dante’s Hell you spiteful little man’ (or maybe that last phrase is reserved for only man in particular). They say you should never meet your heroes and in some ways, this resonates in this particular situation: everything could be spoilt if you find out that your hero is actually a nasty and conceited piece of work. What if Stuart Pearce turns out not to be the heroic manager we want him to be?

But after long and hard thought, perhaps it is well to take the view that no matter what the outcome, Stuart Pearce will always be a football legend of our club and all of those memories should be compartmentalised and separated from whatever he achieves as a manager. Of course, that is not to mean that I have him down as a failure already as a manager: he may just turn out to actually bloody well be the actual messiah.

It goes without saying that he deserves and will absolutely get our full support – let’s just make sure it’s through the thin as well as the thick.

And if you want to bring Ian Butterworth with you, Stuart Pearce, feel free to do so.


3 Responses to “Psycho killer, qu’est que ce”

  1. Ian Goodall. April 2, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    I love Stuart Pearce. He is a legend. A real legend. I hope he gets you back to the prem. but unless he does a “Sir Alex” of a “Wenger”. It will all end in tears and disappointment. That’s modern football. It’s Shite.

    • marplesdavid April 2, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

      Yeah. I know. Hence the mixed emotions. Modern football is rubbish in that way but football, on the pitch without all the crap and the nonsense, is, on its day, awesome. Shame it’s so much emotional and financial investment for such infrequent moments though!


  1. Five things we like this month — April | Seat Pitch - May 1, 2014

    […] Psycho killer, qu’est que ce – Forest Lookout “It is difficult to express how much Stuart Pearce means to Forest […]

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