Former Premiership winner Ian Pearce, who scored on his debut for Oxted & District
FC where he started his career, wants to be treated like one of the boys.
Pearce, one of only six players to have made at least one appearance in every Premiership
season since its inception in 1992, had to pay the match fee of £2.50, reduced by
half because he is unemployed.
The 34-year-old's appearance for the Surrey South Eastern Combination first division
intermediate side drew a record crowd of 150 to Master Park on Saturday as Oxted
beat Westminster Casuals 4-1.
Joint manager Peter Green admitted he was still pinching himself at the signing
he compared to Ronaldo signing for Wycombe Wanderers.
And first team captain Matt Hancock said a number of the side had played with former
Oxted County School student Pearce, who went on to win the Premiership with Blackburn
Rovers, when he was at the club as a youngster so were not star struck by his presence.
"I didn't quite believe it until I saw him on Saturday. We all thought it was a
bit of a laugh, but it was terrific to have him in the side," said Hancock.
"We have had a lot of players through our books over the years, and many do eventually
come back to their roots like this."
Tim Digby, who has played close to 180 games for the club, said everyone was thrilled
to be playing with Pearce, who moved to West Ham in 1997 for £3.5million.
Hampered by injury in recent seasons, he started his career with the village club
and returned at the weekend after talking to Green about a possible comeback.
"I am very proud for the club to have a player of this caliber wanting to play for
us," said Green, who has known Pearce for a number of years, and runs the team with
"In my heart of hearts I thought he wouldn't sign, and I am pinching myself. It's
great for the players."
Digby said his new team-mate wants to be treated like one of the lads. "The manager
gave him the same pre-match talk as we got, he doesn't get any favours because of
who he is and he wouldn't want that anyway," he added.
"He just wants to fit in and we all hope he will play a few times this season.
"When he scored our fourth goal he ran to the side of the pitch and celebrated to
an imaginary bumper crowd. The other side wanted to swap shirts but we only have
16 to go around so they were disappointed.
"The players regard it as a great honour to be playing with him. We are savouring
"He certainly brought more people to the ground as word spread he might be playing.
It's great to see so many families and especially kids coming along to see someone
like him at this level.
"The players loved having him in the team but there was no special fuss made of
him. He was just another player in a typical home game but with added spice."
Pearce, who lives close to the ground, played the whole 90 minutes and told Green
he thoroughly enjoyed himself.
He was out of contract with Fulham, having been released in the summer, and agreed
to sign with Oxted, his registration posted to league bosses in time for Saturday's
He was joined on the scoresheet by Digby, Simon Hancock and Jonny Curtis.
Pearce started with the club's mini section, cutting his footballing teeth at the
club alongside Brighton & Hove Albion captain Nicky Forster.
Pearce spent 18 years as a professional, including three with Chelsea, four at Blackburn
Rovers with whom he won the Premiership title, six at West Ham and the past five
Oxted, promoted last season to the first division, entertain Sporting Bahia on Saturday
and are expecting another bumper crowd.