x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Passion will not be enough for Stuart Pearce to succeed with England

The England job is a poisoned chalice and Pearce is more than likely to end up being deemed a failure due to unrealistic expectations. Audio interviews

Stuart Pearce oversaw a 3-2 defeat to Holland in his first game as England’s caretaker manager.
Stuart Pearce oversaw a 3-2 defeat to Holland in his first game as England’s caretaker manager.

The ball came over and Newcastle United's Steve Howey and I both challenged for it. Stuart Pearce, then with my old club Newcastle, used industrial language, telling Howey to "knock his block off." The block was my head.

I had moved from Newcastle to Manchester United for a record British transfer fee and maybe Pearce thought I needed cutting down to size, despite me getting on well with all my former teammates.

I didn't react. I can't remember who won the ball, but I expected nothing less from a player whose nickname was "Psycho", a player who always tried to leave a mark on you. But what he had done was wrong and I waited for him in the tunnel at half time.

I told him that if he wanted to knock my block off then he should try to do it himself. He said: "I was only messing about, Coley." I wasn't having it.

"If you fancy it, then do it," I said. We were quickly separated.



A lot of it was bravado with Pearce. I grew up in Nottingham, where Pearce became a huge figure. He was the best English full-back, a really good player with an excellent left foot. He played with a fire in his belly and was as tough as they came. He had been in non-league football for five years before turning professional so he played every game as if it was his last.

He really appreciated making it as a footballer and you could see that he was really proud to represent England.

I'll never forget his bulging face and clenched fist when he scored a penalty in Euro '96. He was punching the air and you could see he was pumped up on adrenalin, the Englishman scoring for England in England. He played 78 times for his country, a fine record.

A few years later, Pearce was briefly my manager at Manchester City. He made a joke about that incident in the tunnel at Old Trafford and we laughed about it. I got on fine with him as coach and never had any real problems.

Pearce found it difficult as City manager in 2005, though. When he got the job in a caretaker role, it was all new to him and you could see his enthusiasm. That soon ebbed away when players didn't respond to his ideas, which were centred on bravado and pride.

That worked for Pearce, it didn't work for everyone. Apart from that, why should a Frenchman like the captain Sylvain Distin or an American like Claudio Reyna buy into all that pride and patriotism stuff?

Even the English lads like Joey Barton couldn't relate to such one-dimensional management. I saw Pearce and Barton have words, with Barton, as usual, not shy to speak his mind.

Pearce asked me to have a chat with a few players to get them onside with the manager. That was the manager's job, not mine.

I think Pearce learnt a lot in those first few months. Sir Alex Ferguson said that he couldn't manage now like he did 20 years ago.

Then, you could really shout and rave at a player, really verbally abuse a player and know that you would get the best out of him the following week. Not any more. There are players from around the world in the Premier League and they all have different attitudes. Many simply don't respond to aggression.

Ferguson has adapted and I hope that Pearce has too - although he is now in charge of the England national team which presents different challenges. Everyone was disappointed at how poor England Under 21s were under Pearce last year in the European championships.

People rightly expected a lot from them because there was a lot of talent in that team, but for whatever reason they flopped.

Pearce will have been learning all the time. He'll know that certain methods didn't work and every manager needs experience. He has to live up to the ridiculous expectations that go with the England job, but I'm not convinced he's helped himself by making Scott Parker captain over Steven Gerrard.

Parker is a very good player, but Gerrard should have been given a run as captain. That's Pearce all over, doing things his way and making a statement.

I wish Stuart well and he'll need luck because the England manager's job, even in a temporary role, is a poisoned chalice. He'll be expected to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 at least. Anything less and he'll be considered a failure.

When it comes to pride and passion, something past England managers have been accused of lacking, Pearce will have more than anyone. Will that be enough? We'll see.


Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent, Andy Mitten.