In this weirdest of times, the new football season is upon us – a month late, with no crowds – and there’s been changes at West Ham, too, both on and off the pitch. Stuart Pearce is back at the club, as part of David Moyes’s coaching team.
A simple club statement revealed the news: ‘West Ham United is pleased to confirm that Stuart Pearce has returned to the club as a first team coach and will work alongside Kevin Nolan and Paul Nevin, who have also signed new contracts.’
This news might come as a surprise. After all, it was widely reported that Pearce and West Ham’s board had a somewhat acrimonious relationship.
Pearce’s contract was not renewed after Moyes departed for the first time at the end of the 2017-18 season, and it was Pearce who intimated that the board had blocked Moyes’s attempts to re-recruit him, when Moyes himself re-joined in December last year.
At the time, Pearce said: ‘The owners felt I was a little bit critical of the regime when we left last time and put the block on it’, which according to reports did not go down well with the West Ham hierarchy, perhaps unsurprisingly.
However, it now seems as if the air has been cleared, and all are friends again.
‘I’ve spoken directly with David Sullivan and Karren Brady and I had extremely positive conversations with both of them,’ Pearce said. ‘They were enthusiastic about me returning. It says a lot about them that I’m at West Ham again. I wouldn’t be back if I didn’t believe in the strategy in place to take this great football club forward.’
That’s all good then, and given West Ham’s extremely rocky form for large parts of last season – the upturn in form towards the end of it notwithstanding – it can only be a good thing that there’s more support for Moyes at the club, as Pearce joins Kevin Nolan and Paul Nevin in his backroom staff.
Pearce returning to the club will support the team both on and off the field. It’s easily forgotten, but he was the England under-21 manager for six years and also managed the Great Britain men’s football team at the London Olympics in 2012.
He has a wealth of experience to offer and of course, knows the club very well, having experience both as a player and a coach.
As a former England no-nonsense defender, he’s also ideally placed to assist the side at the back – it won’t come as a surprise to learn that West Ham had the fifth-leakiest defence last season, and this is an area that is desperately in need of reinforcement.
Personally, I’m seriously hoping that Pearce might be the ideal man to assist in this area and tighten things up at the back.
Moyes himself is thrilled at his (re)acquisition: ‘I’m really pleased to welcome Stuart back to West Ham United. He did a fantastic job for me in our first spell at the club together. Stuart is a highly-respected figure throughout the game, who will bring another dimension to the coaching set-up here.
‘I believe he will complement Kevin and Paul really well – both of whom have been brilliant support for me alongside Alan Irvine of course – and will help us get the very best out of the players.’
From studying the pre-season predictions, many writers have West Ham placed towards the middle of the bottom half of the table.
I know I’m at risk of being ridiculed here, but imagine a scenario where we have a West Ham team who are well-drilled at the back, conceding considerably less goals.
We have the flair in midfield, and the graft too, and we’re clearly capable of scoring goals – witness the last few games for evidence of this last season.
Maybe Pearce is the missing piece of the jigsaw to help us progress. Perhaps next season, with carefully placed reinforcements (such as the arrival of Tomas Soucek, we might at least avoid a relegation battle.
Hardly ‘next level’ stuff I agree, but with Pearce’s addition to the backroom staff, surely, we have enough about us to finish comfortably mid-table? We can but hope.