On 27th April 1994, Blackburn Rovers cemented their first ever qualification for European football with a 1-2 victory away at West Ham United.
Henning Berg had given Rovers a lead in the 11th minute before Martin Allen equalised for the Hammers on 64 minutes.
On 73 minutes, a young Ian Pearce replaced Alan Wright, before scoring in the 74th minute what would prove to be the winner and send Rovers into the Uefa Cup for the first time in their history.
Signed from Chelsea in October 1993 – where he had made just 4 appearances having been signed from non-league Oxted & District FC during the 91/92 season – Pearce was a player in development and still finding his position on the field. Scoring on his debut against Shrewsbury Town in extra time in the league cup. Rovers started off by trying Pearce up front.
It was the 94/95 season where Pearce establishes himself as a centre-back making 28 league appearances, earning a Premiership winners medal in the process.
That season started with Le Saux, Hendry, Gale and Berg as a back 4. However, due to injuries to Gale and Wilcox as the season went on, Jeff Kenna was signed and Henning Berg moved to centre-half with Kenna becoming right back.
Following an injury to Wilcox. Le Saux moved to the left wing, Kenna to left back, Berg reverting to right back thus giving Pearce his opportunity to partner Hendry in the centre and he never looked back.
The next 2 seasons, Pearce didn’t make as many appearances as he would have liked due to changes in management, players bought and injuries.
In October 1997, West Ham United paid £2.3m for his services. Having played regularly for the Hammers in his first 2 seasons (including finishing runner-up as the player of the year for them in ’99), Pearce was injured in a clash with teammate Stuart Pearce in the 99/00 season – limiting him to just 37 minutes of football. The injury kept him out for 14 months.
It wasn’t until the 02/03 season that he started to play regularly again for West Ham, making 33 appearances. His form continued into the 03/04 season where he made a further 26 starts in the old First Division before Fulham came calling and luring him with an opportunity to play Premiership football again in the January transfer window.
Pearce was signed by former Blackburn team-mate Chris Coleman in January 2004 for an undisclosed fee, involving Andy Melville moving in the opposite direction.
The 04/05 season was unfortunately anther season plagued by injury as Pearce suffered from a persistent back problem.
A move to Norwich City broke down in August 2005 when Pearce pulled out of the move citing ‘family reasons’.
He returned to Fulham for pre-season where Chris Coleman described his as “Fulham’s best player during pre-season”. Once again, Pearce struggled with fitness which had plagued his career at Craven Cottage. His best season coming his in 2006-2007 when he made 22 league appearances.
He was loaned out to Southampton on a 30-day deal in February 2008 making just one appearance. He was released at the end of the season by Fulham.
It’s funny how life comes in a full cycle. After a brief trial for Brentford, Pearce signed for Surrey South Eastern Combination Oxted and District FC where he started his career.
In September 2009, Pearce was announced as Chris Sutton’s assistant manager at Lincoln City. A month later, in addition to his assistant manager role, he was added to the playing staff.
At the tail end of his career, this was a bit part role. One of his most notable moments at Lincoln was getting sent off as an unused substitute against Cheltenham Town.
Chris Sutton resigned as Manager of the Imps in September 2010, and Pearce left the club alongside him.
His love for the game made it so he never officially announced his retirement from football. He represented Kingstonian FC and Lingfield in non-league football in 2011.
As of 2014, Pearce has been part of the Brighton and Hove Albion scouting team – a job he is is still enjoying to this day.
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