Football: Pearce poised to take Forest job

Stuart Pearce, the former England captain, was last night offered the thankless task of trying to rescue Nottingham Forest from their perilous position at the foot of the Premiership table. Following the resignation of Frank Clark late the previous evening, the 34-year-old Forest skipper has been given 24 hours to decide whether he will accept the role of caretaker manager. No one expects him to refuse.

Clark himself backed the board's decision to offer the job to Pearce, who has often expressed a desire to go into management when his playing days are over. Irving Korn, the chairman, said that Clark's assistant, Alan Hill, would assume administrative duties.

"It's a wise decision by the board and I'm certain the players will get a lift from it," Clark said. "If he decides to accept I'm sure he'll get things going. I can't believe any Nottingham Forest fans will be disappointed by the decision."

They may, however, have mixed feelings about Clark's decision to go. The success he brought to the club, upon succeeding Brian Clough as manager three and a half years ago - itself an unenviable task - was beyond the wildest dreams of most rational Forest supporters but it has dissolved this season against a background of imprudent spending by Clark and a takeover battle which has rumbled on and on, leaving him financially hamstrung.

Much of Clark's troubles stemmed from the sale of Stan Collymore to Liverpool for pounds 8.5m in the summer of last year - a transfer which he did his best to resist - and it was ironic that Collymore's brace of goals in the 4- 2 defeat of Forest at Anfield on Tuesday should precipitate Clark's resignation, which was reluctantly accepted at an emergency board meeting on Wednesday night. It left the club three points adrift at the bottom of the table without a league win since the opening day of the season 16 games ago - a Premier League record.

"You could say the Liverpool game was the final straw," Clark said, describing his decision to go as the lowest point in his career. "I saw certain warning signs in that display. I didn't want to hang around until they [the players] lost faith in me. That would have been a disaster for the club."

His decision echoed the sentiments of Ray Harford, who recently chose to quit as manager of Blackburn Rovers for the good of the club, since when the Lancastrians' fortunes have revived - to Forest's cost.

"I'd just about run out of things to do, so I've done the ultimate," Clark said. "I'm resigning in the hope that it will give the team a short- term lift. I didn't want to hang on until they [the new owners] came in. There could have been another five or six games played by then and it might have been too late. It's vital now that the team gets a couple of wins. If they do it will transform the picture."

Both rival consortiums had offered their public support for Clark but rumours to the contrary about his position had persisted, making Clark uneasy. Only this week he said that he felt like a turkey with Christmas approaching; everyone was readying themselves for a good time save for the turkey. Clark leaves with his dignity and reputation intact and his name has already been put forward as a front-runner for the Manchester City job. He said he had received some "speculative offers" and was keen to get back into management.

As for Pearce, few young men could go into management with greater backing. A bigger crowd favourite it is hard to imagine, be it at club or international level. "If he doesn't accept we'll think again," Korn said. "But I believe that Stuart, being the type of person he is, will accept the challenge."

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