I want to love Stuart Pearce. I want to pour praise upon his teams like raspberry sauce on ice cream. I want him to win an Olympic medal, to leave the national set-up and enjoy great success with a club side. I want him to retire to the countryside as a fulfilled man, happy to see out his years stroking horses and glaring at poachers so hard that they spontaneously combust.
Pearce the footballer, brave and strong, was one of my heroes. Pearce the manager, on the other hand, I’m not so sure about.
If Team GB, as I believe we must call them, avoid defeat against Uruguay on Wednesday, they will progress to the latter stages of a competition that is now wide open. Of the three pre-tournament favourites, only Brazil will remain in contention. And yet I’m still not convinced that this British side will win a medal.
Pearce the footballer was so hard that his face was once opened up by a Basile Boli headbutt and he carried on playing. He didn’t even complain after the game, he just described it as ‘one of those things’ and said it was probably an accident. Pearce the man was so hard that once, driving along a country road, a lorry tipped over and crushed his car like a tin can. He climbed out unscathed. He’s a T1000. When the end of the world comes, it’ll be scorched earth, some cockroaches and Pearce, brushing the dust of an entire civilisation off his tracksuit bottoms.
But then there’s Pearce the manager. Pearce the manager once played David James up front AS PART OF HIS MASTERPLAN. Pearce the manager once went from New Year’s Day to the end of the season without seeing his Manchester City team score at home. Pearce the manager is such a conundrum that he can veer from kick and rush in the 2011 U21 European Championships to leading a disjointed, mismatched rabble to an incoherent 1-1 draw with Senegal and then almost lose to UAE because he deployed a team of pass-masters almost too pretty to protect their back four. It’s 16 years since he picked his first side (he selected 12 players until his wife put him right) and I still don’t know what kind of manager he is.
I agreed with not picking 37-year-old David Beckham, until I heard that he’d picked 38-year-old Ryan Giggs. Either you choose the best team available or you allow yourself to be swayed by sentiment. This just felt like a fudge. No-one wanted to admit it, but Team GB looked far more dangerous when the ageing Welshman had left the field on Sunday. Pearce was perfectly within his rights to point to his own substitutions as the turning point in that game. It’s just a shame that his initial selection meant there actually had to be a turning point.
There are a number of reasons why having Pearce around is a good thing. You couldn’t ask for a better example for young players at international level. When David Bentley withdrew from his U21 squad in 2007, Pearce growled, “when your country comes calling, you put them first and yourself second,” and everyone else’s spine straightened slightly. His team then reached the final. Pearce is very good at pride and personal responsibility. This is a man who was so grounded during the early stages of his playing career that he carried on placing adverts for his services as an electrician in the matchday programme, just in case it didn’t work out. He would, I’m sure, be a perfect assistant manager at the top level. On his own, however, I’m not convinced and I don’t trust his decision-making.
I hope it works out for him, I hope he enjoys success this summer, but I’ve got a horrible feeling that Uruguay’s venerable manager Oscar Tabarez is watching the DVD of the UAE game and rubbing his hands together with glee. The formbook may say otherwise, but I think the British are there for the taking tomorrow night. Defeat could spell the end of a campaign that is destined to become the answer to a pub quiz question rather than a landmark in football's great annals.
Regardless of the result, off will go Psycho - brave and strong - but still lacking a managerial ethos or identity.
Read more from Iain Macintosh HERE.
Read today's Olympic betting tips HERE.