There is not an England football fan that doesn’t remember the nerves, adrenaline and euphoria of Stuart Pearce’s Penalty against Spain in 1996
This was one of those moments that only great sport can produce, an all or nothing decision that meant national pride or national embarrassment.
6 years before Stuart Pearce famously missed a spot kick in Italia 90 and combined with Chris Waddle helped send England home from a World Cup that many thought they could actually win.
It was their first semi final since the legendary days of 1966 and to rub salt in the wounds – it was against West Germany, the nation England had beat in the final 24 years previously.
England had failed to rise to the occasion, worse still against one of their international rivals and on penalties (which England famously always failed at)
Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle were the men that missed and therefore felt the responsibility for the nations footballing failure. They suffered in the press and carried the burden of the World Cup exit.
Euro 96 arrived and was played on England’s home soil, the same host nation as the fabled 1966 World Cup and the cries of 30 years of hurt echoed in the streets and in the music charts. Once again, the nation believed, England had a very real chance of winning a tournament, with home field advantage and a very strong national team.
Of all the legends of 1990 – Stuart Pearce was still an active member of the England first team and despite doubts over is ability and relevance in the position, he was once again picked to represent his country, which as a proud Englishman who never gave any less than 100% for club and country, little did he know he would have to put it all on the line in the upcoming weeks
England reached the quarter finals against Spain on July 22nd 1996 and once again it went to penalties. The nation knew England always fail at penalties and braced themselves for another tournament exit. However, if England somehow changed their luck and overcame the Spanish, a tantalising Semi-final awaited against their old nemesis Germany
Spain missed their first Penalty whilst Alan Shearer scored for England. Spain reacted and scored their second with David Platt scoring England’s second. Spain scored another to make it 2 -2, but England had the advantage, whoever stepped up and took the third penalty could either maintain England’s lead or level the scoring.
To the surprise of the nation, Pearce walked quietly and determinedly to the penalty spot, carrying the weight of the previous six years of anguish with him. This was Stuart Pearce, heart of a lion but with a history of failing at penalties for England. The nation held their breath – this could be the exit. Stuart Pearce placed himself in a 50/50 position. Before the tournament people weren’t sure he should even be in the squad, the memory of his 1990 penalty miss still raw in the national psyche
A miss here and he would subject himself to a life time of ridicule, a permanent black mark on his career and it would certainly be the last kick of a football he ever made for his country.
Pearce stepped up.
And he hammered home the penalty to bring the scoring to 3-2 for England.
The moment the ball hit the back of the net – an entire six years of pain, anguish and hurt left Stuart Pearce as he roared to the heavens and the entire country roared with him. He put himself on the line, in front of the nation. Took a risk and through sheer bravery will and passion placed himself in the football history books, exorcised the demons of Italia 90 and helped England win their first penalty shootout
The image of Stuart Pearce screaming in pure relief is one of the most iconic images in English Football history, just after Bobby Moore raising the Jules Rimet in 1966
It has become one of the most iconic and requested photographs in football history as it perfectly captures the moment that every England fan felt at that time and is a perfect representation of Stuart Pearce as a footballer and a man
This is that moment, hand signed by Stuart Pearce
With Full AFTAL COA
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