Football people on TV: Stuart Pearce

Date published: Friday 29th January 2016 8:57

Stuart Pearce

Fashion police
Was always a tracksuit manager, recent TV appearance suggests this may be because he doesn’t have any other clothes of his own. On Sky on Saturday he was wearing a blue suit that probably fitted someone, but not him. May have recently been recovered from a bin, or perhaps last cleaned in a washing machine. Whatever, he managed to make it look as though he’d put it on back to front. Good work. It was a pleasing change from the usual pundit’s crease-free, dark, funereal attire.

Looks like a man who does his own hairdressing in the bathroom mirror with a pair of kitchen scissors. To all of us who find spending money on personal grooming a waste of time because we can make a £2,000 suit look like an old hanky, Stuart is our icon. His almost bewildered slept-in-a-skip, got-dressed-in-a-wind-tunnel, may-be-living-in-an-abandoned-caravan appearance, is the perfect expression of the man himself, somehow. It is very, very endearing. In an era full of primped-up popinjays, Stuart is the absolute antidote to the flash, blacked-out window, modern football culture.

 

Lingo bingo
One of those strange birds whose somewhat high-pitched voice does not match his square-jawed physicality. Can sometimes seem worryingly, overly intense, leaning forward and staring without blinking. So much so that it’s always a relief when he cracks a smile and has a laugh.

Straight out of cockney central casting, complete with misplacing verbs and mangling tenses. Danny Dyer may have based his entire persona on sounding like Pearce. “Time” is “toime” “footballer” is “futblur” “feathers” “fevvers”. One of the pundits most like to say “he’s ‘ad it away on ‘is toes, a bit lively” Any player under the age of 25 is always “the boy”. At times sounds as if he is actually chewing words as he says them.

His work on the radio is possibly better than TV. I heard him recently making a very dry, off-the-cuff joke whilst on 5live which suggested a man who has a funny bone, albeit a funny bone with a huge fracture in it caused by kicking someone in the head.

 

Hits and misses
He is very, very distinctive. Nothing bland about him. Plain speaking. Likeable. These are good qualities for any broadcaster. The reason he’s worth listening to, and this is his biggest hit, is because, unlike almost anyone else, he’s both played for England and managed England (at under-21 level, admittedly), so he has an almost unique perspective. Plus, he’s a connection back to the days when football was an avowedly working class sport, for working class people and was pleased to be so. He’s come a long way from being an electrician and playing non-league.

This does sometimes make him seem a bit like a man out of time; a footballing Banquo’s ghost at the Premier League banquet, perhaps. Hasn’t got a good record as a manager, perhaps because the gulf between himself and the modern player is too culturally wide, and because shouting at people until their eyes bleed, is no longer legal under the Human Rights Act. After a disastrous spell at Forest, which attracted more pity than ire, maybe trying to reinvent himself as a calmer, more analytical type. This could be impossible to do because he is already so firmly set in the popular imagination of both fans and potential chairmen.

Standing by a big screen pointing out tactical developments and such, just doesn’t look a natural fit with him, for some reason. He looks awkward doing it. Is far more at ease on the radio where he can just concentrate on watching the football.

 

Big club bias
A man with Hammersmith, working class, punk rock roots, who features on a Lurkers album, could never allow any BCB into his life.

 

Loved or loathed
Pearce was loved as a force of nature footballer. Those two penalties. The screaming. A man so hard he wanted to play on with a broken leg, who emerged from his car being crushed by a truck with barely a scratch on him. As such, there is still a lot of goodwill towards him in his media work, and rightly so. He’s not at the pinnacle of the pundit mountain, and he probably wouldn’t pretend to be so, but I doubt anyone could loathe him when he appears on the screen.

He’s easy to appreciate; I mean, those thighs, good god man, those thighs. Appearances on the media are becoming more regular and always add a welcome different colour to proceedings with his wonderful voice. Was apparently recently on Talksport with Adrian Durham picking his punk band dream team, something which sounds almost beyond parody.

 

Proper Football Man
Very English. Played under Cloughie. Long career. Hard man who hurt people. A child called Chelsea. Mid-life divorce. Historical apology for a racial slur incident on his CV. Very patchy managerial career. Great nickname. Sacked by foreign owners AND the FA (the b**tards). All classic PFMing.  And there’s no way any PFM would not call Pearce a proper football man. They wouldn’t dare.

But Psycho frightens them a bit. He’s gone on survival courses and management courses, too. No proper PFM would do that because he has no desire to skin a rabbit whilst living in a cave in the Highlands. Oh I say, is there no breakfast buffet, Mark? And also he already knows he could go in there and do a bloody good job, if only he was given more time, so courses are useless. No offence, Psycho. Coaching badges, Mark, are they any use? No.

Effortlessly passes the Not Like Oliver Giroud non-metrosexual test, which is pleasing, but there are worries he isn’t paranoid, doesn’t care enough about money, caviar and champagne and isn’t sufficiently bitter about past carve ups. Nor is he obsessed with telling the outside world that he’s doing really well, nor with living it up in a 9-star hotel in the Middle East. This alienates him from the hardcore PFMs for whom this is a hard-won lifestyle that they insist everyone be jealous of.

Also his love of punk rock makes the PFMs distrustful. They never liked it back in the day, what with them being rude about the Queen, gawd bless her, and that Prince Philip, he’s just one of us ain’t he? Punk was just noise. What’s wrong with liking Johnny Hates Jazz, Jeff?

Looks robust enough for intensive team bonding over drinks, and should it end in a painful accident involving headbutting a tractor, or wrestling a feral Alsatian, then it holds no fears for Psycho. If presented with Reidy’s single isotope blend of Strontium 90, cider vinegar and soda crystals, preferably in a cave, Stuart would knock it back in one shot, unblinking, just staring in a very passive-aggressive manner at Reidy and then demand another and another and another, until Reidy is flown out by air ambulance whilst Pearce goes for a light jog.

Seems to have no form as regards the golf, or the gee-gees and has, most frightening of all, talked about reading books and going to the theatre, both of which set all the PFM alarms off, unless you’re only saying it in order to impress women, Chaz. Same goes for liking cats and white wine.

More reducer than seducer, it’s impossible to imagine him emerging at 4.27am from Knee Tremblers in Retford with Miss East Midlands Brazil And Coconut Nut Cracking Thighs of 1981 and her mother. Nor is he a good candidate for banter involving TC being thrown in a river via a makeshift catapult, accidentally setting fire to a palette storage facility off the A1 with a welding torch, or cutting the legs off Deano’s pants when he’s passed out in the toilet at a Little Chef on the A57. Basically, not the sort of jape-a-holic that the PFM requires as a buddy.

But the PFMs are too scared to tell Psycho he’s failed his PFM exam due to being too hard and looking like he might tear your throat out at any moment, like an especially aggressive ferret. So they have issued him with a membership card and just hope he never turns up for any meetings.

 

Beyond the lighted stage
Could be the sort of chap who has a later in life renaissance period. Does his fair share of charity work for hospitals and soldiers. Likes a charity lunch and a gala dinner with the telling of a few funnies, afterwards, which, I imagine, he’s rather good at. Went to the Gascoigne premiere and spoke very well about the Geordie genius. Seems to have a lot of affection for army types, who he would certainly call, “our boys”. All in all, absolutely solid fella.

John Nicholson

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