Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Psycho? Bring it on

I've changed my tune. You see I used to be firmly in the 'I don't want Psycho back as manager, it'd tarnish his reputation' camp. Like many, I was filled with dread at the thought of my all time favourite player being remembered for getting the boot after a tame defeat and murmurings of discontent. 

It's the sort of negative, safety first thinking that you get after watching Forest over the years. But is it not time to set that aside and be happy about the possible return of a hero? Come on then, why not...

First of all, is it not time to challenge the 'he's a terrible manager' line that is often trotted out?

Yes, he doesn't have the greatest reputation but what are we judging that on? Pearce's under-21 tenure? Well, I'll be the first to admit I was underwhelmed at what I saw from his teams at big tournaments. We looked short of imagination and real quality when it came to taking on the top teams under pressure. 

Playing devil's advocate (or Pl***'s mate if you would) for a second and you'd have to point out that Pearce's side reached a Euro final and semi final - and was badly shorn of talent at an albeit dreadful 2013 tournament in Israel. This comes on the back of failing to qualify in 2004 (under that man Pl***) and 2006. Indeed we also failed to make it to five consecutive tournaments in the 90s. And freezing on the big stage at a tournament, when actually there, is hardly a trait hampering Pearce's England U21s alone. 

What about at City? Well his tenure seems now to be part of a mere footnote in the time between the club's return to the top flight and the takeover/big money era that began under Sven. He finished lower mid table in consecutive seasons (albeit flirting with the wrong end of the table in the second). This was a City where the likes of Ag├╝ero, Negredo and Dzeko were yet to be seen, with the hopes resting instead on the likes of Vassell, Mpenza and Dickov. Was he a resounding success? No. A disaster? No.

Our job, we have to admit, is also not on the same level than either the under-21s or City. Judging Pearce from the prism of top Premier League management is different to judging him at the level we're at. You'd like to think those experiences should have taught him a fair bit and, hopefully, got him some credit and contacts with some good young players.

There's no denying that the name and character of Pearce should be a positive and unifying force for the club. Is that important? Well, in the light of the Davies era it probably is. The reaction of senior and respected figures in the media to the wee Scot's departure speaks volumes. Quite simply he had enemies. Who cares about a few hacks? Well, reputation matters, especially if Fawaz wants to extend marketing opportunities by building a 'brand'. You also worry that the public utterances of these journalists have been echoed in private by possible transfer targets and opposition clubs. We need a great deal of water to flow under Trent Bridge now to get back our good name. Pearce's appointment may well quicken the tide.

Excitement aside it may not be seen as a sensible appointment. But, then again, where have sensible appointments got us? Pl*** and Megson made sense at the time, or do I thought. Nigel Doughty was, if we're honest, almost too logical and businesslike in his picks. A man who won the most Premier League manager of the months in Kinnear, a man with a track record in discipline and getting promotion at West Brom in Megson, a former England manager in McClaren. All laudable reasons but all not long term 'fits'. And anyway if the sensible option this time is the odious Warnock then you can stick being sensible. Maybe let's try 'heart over head'?

Pearce the player ought to be an inspiration beyond the stands too. His thunderous tackles, unstoppable free kicks and marauding forward runs were pure brilliance. Those qualities made him England captain and if you're not inspired to play for someone like that then there's something wrong with you. I appreciate that in itself is simplistic and confuses managerial and footballing ability but you'd like to think that, in some way, what he did on the field mattered and mattered to more than just us.

I used to feel sad that I'd missed the glorious European days and even the 80s when cup finals and high league finishes were the norm. But then came the days of Pl*** and Megson and I realised that I was pretty lucky. I went to Wembley twice in 1992 in the last days of the Clough empire (in fact as last winners, do we still count as holders of the Zenith Data Systems trophy?!). I also got to enjoy the Frank Clark side that followed. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I feel sorry for the fans who missed out on Collymore, Roy, Cooper, Chettle, Woan, Stone, Crossley and - most definitely above all - Pearce. Frankly whatever Psycho does in the dugout will do nothing to diminish his legendary player status. He's my favourite player and why should that change? The goals, crosses, tackles etc live on in the memory regardless. 

The fact that he's a legend doesn't mean he'll automatically be a success here as a manager but it does mean he deserves our respect and support even more. Just imagine how good it'd be to have a successful 150th anniversary with Psycho leading the charge. The prospect of a fist pump to the crowd and accompanying 'Psycho' chant is almost enough alone to ease any lingering fears.

One of my favourite Pearce memories wasn't even in a Forest shirt, or indeed an England one. It came at Maine Road on March 30 2002. Pearce was captain, of course, of Kevin Keegan's free scoring side that roared to promotion in the last season for Man City at their old ground. We, on the other hand, were a little timid and yet to find the passing verve that Paul Hart managed in his second season. Hart deployed Marlon Harewood on the right wing, directly up against Pearce. He was, predictably, too strong, clever and classy for poor-old Marlon, who barely had a kick. We lost 3-0 to a Darren Huckerby hat trick and, with the game a lost cause for the most part, the travelling Trickies cheered on Psycho. Pearce didn't flinch. Ever the pro he remained focused on the task in hand, albeit one that seemed a little too easy. With his name still echoing around the away end come full time he headed off with the rest of his teammates, satisfied at a job well done. And that was that. Except it wasn't. Business done for the day, Pearce trotted back out over to us, gave us an old school fist pump, chucked his shirt in the crowd and revelled in the raucous 'Psycho, Psycho, Psycho' chant. A class act and an icon. To twist a Billyism, he is what he is.

Am I dreaming? Probably. But, hell, barring another George Boyd-esque u turn it looks like it is about to happen. Let's enjoy the ride. Psycho is, after all, our leader.