Pearce, 53, returns to aid ‘England’s worst team’

Former England left-back Stuart Pearce is returning to action at the age of 53 to aid a non-league team dubbed "the worst in England". Longford AFC of the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division Two in south-west England are bottom of their league, having lost 19 out of 19 with a goal difference of minus 180.

Longford AFC hope that the 53-year-old Pearce, nicknamed ‘Psycho’ for his tough-tackling style, can help them turn the tide.   -  AP

Former England left-back Stuart Pearce is returning to action at the age of 53 to aid a non-league team dubbed “the worst in England”.

Longford AFC of the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division Two in south-west England are bottom of their league, having lost 19 out of 19 with a goal difference of minus 180.

But now they hope that the 53-year-old Pearce, nicknamed ‘Psycho’ for his tough-tackling style, can help them turn the tide.

“Direct Line (insurance) are running the Direct Fix campaign and they asked me if I’d help a team christened the worst in England, from a playing point of view and helping with morale around the place,” Pearce said Thursday.

“I’ve not played a competitive game since I left Manchester City 14 years ago so it’ll be quite interesting to see how it goes. I think the adrenaline will get me through it.”

Pearce, however, was not confident his new side would beat the drop.

“The manager is fairly upbeat. He thinks he can get out of the relegation problem they’re in, bearing in mind they’ve got no points and the average goals they ship per game is 10.

“The results have improved slightly in recent weeks but they’re still working to an average of 10 goals over a season, which isn’t great.

“They’ve got the second-from-bottom team twice and are six points adrift of them so they fancy their chances of avoiding relegation.

“I didn’t want to burst his bubble to suggest that, in my opinion, that probably wouldn’t be the case.”

Pearce is set to make his debut against Smiths Athletic at Longford Playing Field on February 6.

And he insisted that the nerves he will feel then will not be anything new.

“People ask me if I get nervous playing football and the answer is yes, I’ve always got nervous,” said Pearce, who made over 500 appearances for Nottingham Forest.

“They’ll be expecting me to do things I probably can’t do anymore. I’ll have to manage the expectations of the manager and the rest of the boys.”

100th goal target

Pearce was a renowned penalty-taker at the height of his playing career and, asked if he would take a spot-kick for his new club, said: “The bottom line is, I’m on 99 career goals and still looking for my 100th. It’d be a wonderful place to score it.”

Capped 78 times by England, Pearce started his career in non-league football with Wealdstone, north-west of London, and said the experience he gained in such matches was invaluable.

“I played 250 non-league games before I got the opportunity to be a pro footballer,” he said.

“It was great to me and I’m glad I took the journey I did rather than be associated with a pro club and come through as a starlet.

“I find that I’m probably a lot more grounded than some of the individuals I’ve had to play alongside over my career. I was an electrician by trade and worked in a warehouse for years prior to that so I did it the hard way, but the better way I think.

Longford manager Nick Dawe added: “We needed a decent left-back so Stuart Pearce is perfect.

“It’ll be a huge boost to the players’ morale. They’ve been through the mill this season so if nothing else, it’ll make their day.”

Pearce was part of the England squad that reached the last four of the World Cup in 1990, and the side that was eliminated at the same stage of Euro 1996.

His playing career included spells at Newcastle United, Manchester City, West Ham and Coventry, and he went into coaching following his retirement.