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"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play…it is war minus the shooting."

George Orwell

Never stop dreaming

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Stuart Pearce, London, Hodder, 2020. ISBN 9781529 348545

The book is not an autobiography of Pearce’s life but an account of one year, one tournament, with Pearce commenting “that tournament defined me”. He sums up his international career: “I played three tournaments and two of them ended with semi-final defeats to Germany on penalties”.

A one sentence summary of the book would be: In 1990 Pearce missed a penalty for England in the World Cup semi-final, penalty shoot-out but in 1996 he scored twice in penalty shoot-outs.

He comments: “I wasn’t actively seeking redemption for missing the critical penalty in the shoot-out at the end of the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany, but redemption found me anyway. It found me at the end of the Euro 96 quarter-final against Spain, when there was another penalty shoot-out and I took another penalty”.

Even before the 1996 quarter-final against Spain, recognizing that a penalty shoot-out was possible, Pearce was determined to volunteer to take one. Intriguingly he was clear that he wanted to take the third one. The book includes a long section on the process of preparing to take his penalty and even more so for the semi-final against Germany. His default penalty was to whip the ball across his body to the keeper’s left. But the German goalkeeper would know that. Should he change it? Might the goalkeeper expect him to change and should he therefore stick with his usual penalty?

Sometimes as one reads an autobiography, one can hear the player saying the words. In this book, written with Oliver Holt, I felt there were many paragraphs which sounded more like Holt than Pearce.

An interesting book, especially for those of us old enough to remember 1996.

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