Stuart Pearce says two Germans who refused to celebrate in front of him after his infamous World Cup penalty miss taught him a lesson in humility
The England icon was in tears after his spot kick was saved during England’s shoot out defeat in the semi final of Italia 90.
Called to do a drugs test after the game, the defender said the unnamed Germans, who had been celebrating moments earlier, simply sat silently and respectfully.
Stuart, now 59, said their refusal to celebrate during his despair made him a better person.
Speaking on the Running on Emotion podcast, he said: “We sat there in total silence, I sat there with my head bowed, they did as well. They did not say a word to each other.
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“I didn’t realise at the time, because you’re hurting so much.
“And it sent a great lesson out to me, after the event, of how humble they were.”.
He admitted that after he returned to the dressing room it felt like ‘a death of some kind’ and was ‘a crushing blow’.
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Pearce, who played 78 times for England, said: “I had walked into the dressing room in tears still.
“The doctor came over to me and said ‘you and Shilts [goalkeeper Peter Shilton] have been pulled for the drug test. You want to stay in the dressing room, among likeminded people that have all suffered.”
Whereas Shilton was able to quickly give his urine sample, Pearce said he struggled as he had lost ‘7lbs of sweat during the game’, and so had to drink points of water and wait in a holding room.
“I’m in a room that has got two German players sat opposite me, I’m sat here, Shilts has a quick wee and goes. So there’s myself, two German players, and we’re sat there facing each other for what seems like an eternity.
“They had won a World Cup semi-final and were going to a final, not only had my time been beaten in a penalty shoot out but I had missed a penalty which contributed to it.
“I did wonder, in years gone by, what would the reaction have been if it had been two England players and one German player? And it sent a great lesson out to me, after the event, of how humble they were.”
Pearce said he grew as a result of the experience and it has influenced his behaviour ever since, including when he exorcised his demons by scoring his penalty in the Euro 96 shoot out win against Spain.
He added: “It’s probably why after scoring a penalty at Wembley with a Spanish player missing a penalty, when everyone celebrated I didn’t.
“I went straight to the Spanish player and commiserated because of my experience with two German players – it was as though they had passed on humility to me to pass on to somebody else, further down the line.
“It was a great life lesson.”
Nevertheless, Pearce admitted he had to convince England manager Terry Venables to let him take that penalty.
After saying at the final whistle ‘I’ll take the third penalty’, he revealed: “He looked at me with this surprised look on his face and said ‘are you effing sure?’ And I went ‘yeah, yeah’ and thought ‘I was sure, until you said that…’.
“But I thought failure for me would’ve been not to take a penalty and let a lesser light go up and take one on your behalf and you stand on the halfway line because you’re fearful of failure.”