Paul Parker

Stuart Pearce is not a racist

Paul Parker

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Stuart Pearce found himself on the front page of the newspapers

I could not help but find the front pages of some of Friday's newspapers anything other than embarrassing.

Stuart Pearce has only just been named as England's caretaker manager, and already the press have dredged up some story from years ago in an attempt to discredit him.

I just cannot understand this attitude of the British media that as soon as someone is elevated to sufficiently high office they are fair game. Even if there is nothing new to smear a person's name with, they will happily trawl through a person's past just to get anything on them.

That is what has happened here with an alleged incident from 18 years ago involving Pearce and Paul Ince during a game between Manchester United and Nottingham Forest.

I was playing at United at the time, although not in this match, and I can honestly say I do not remember the incident in question. However, if something was said and Stuart apologised to Paul afterwards - as was reported at the time - and no one felt the need to take it any further then we should just leave it where it belongs, in the past.

What is the use of bringing something like this up and claiming it is 'news' when there is nothing new about it? It just goes to show that certain members of the press will chase a shocking headline at any cost, even if there is no foundation for it.

I played with Stuart for England many times and got to know him well, and I genuinely believe there is absolutely no way he is racist. If he did make any abusive comments to Paul, as was alleged at the time, I would say they may have come out of ignorance at that point, rather than bigotry. I am sure that as a highly respected member of the football community he would not dream of making any such comments now.

Ignorance was certainly the root of most of the racist remarks I had directed at me during my time as a player. Opponents would look for anything to rile you up, and the odd person would use the colour of your skin to do so. It was not acceptable that it went on even back then. At least we now live in a time where that sort of behaviour is roundly condemned and punished so much more.

I recall an incident during one match playing for England when we were getting ready to defend a corner. One of the opposition said something to Des Walker, something racist. The first person to come over and stick up for Des was Stuart. The pair had been team-mates at Forest and were close friends, and Pearce let this guy have it. I remember that the corner was held up for quite a while as he let this guy know exactly what he thought of him for saying what he said.

It may be a clichéd and flawed defence of someone accused of racism to say something along the lines of "some of my best friends are black", but that is not why I bring that story up. I do so because it shows Pearce for the kind of man he is, a leader of men who will do anything for his team-mates.

Pearce may not bring with him a wealth of experience at the top level of management or a high degree of tactical nous like Fabio Capello, but he will bring something that the Italian never came close to doing.

What England's players need more than anything right now is a man in front of them with a true passion for the job, and who can transfer that on to the team. Pearce will not be one to suffer fools gladly, and I am sure he will only pick those players who he believes fully have their hearts and minds on the job.

It may only be a one-off, but Pearce has earned the right to take his seat in the dugout at Wembley, no matter what anyone says.

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