What happened when Stuart Pearce played David James upfront v Middlesbrough in 2005

Manchester City v Middlesbrough

Only three players have made more Premier League appearances than the retired England goalkeeper David James: Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Ryan Giggs.

He played a total of 572 matches in England’s top flight for Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth between 1992 and 2010.

And James worked under plenty of colourful coaches during that time, including Harry Redknapp and Stuart Pearce.

Cast your minds back to May 2005, because we’re about to reminisce over one of the greatest incidents in Premier League history.

James was playing in goal for Man City against Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2004-05 campaign and the scores were level at 1-1 with just minutes left to play. Kiki Musampa had cancelled out Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink’s first-half opener and City would qualify for the UEFA Cup, at the expense of Boro, if they scored a late equaliser.

Stuart Pearce went mental and put James upfront

It was the 88th minute and Pearce had one final substitute to make; one last roll of the dice.

But nobody could have predicted what he was about to do next.

Despite the fact Pearce had Jon Macken - you know, an actual forward - on the bench, the English coach instead decided to sub on second-choice ‘keeper Nicky Weaver.


Weaver ran on in place of Claudio Reyna while James, to the complete surprise of everybody inside the Etihad Stadium, donned an outfield players’ shirt and went upfront.

Manchester City v Middlesbrough

Pure comedy and absolute carnage

The next few minutes were a mixture of pure comedy and absolute carnage.

James, all 6ft 4in of him, made a nuisance of himself in an attempt to help City find the winner.

He had a couple of touches in and around the Boro penalty box and took out two opponents with horrendously mistimed challenges.

James was inside the penalty area when City were awarded a dramatic late penalty after Franck Queudrue handled the ball inside the box, but Pearce allowed Robbie Fowler to take the spot-kick.

The Liverpool legend missed, however, and James continued to put himself about upfront.

His big moment came right at the death.

The ball fell to him on the edge of the box and he must have seen his name in lights because he went for the first-time volley.

But rather than smashing the ball past Mark Schwarzer, James hilariously sliced his shot before conceding a free-kick with a ridiculous tackle.

Watch the highlights here…

Pearce explained his decision after the match

"I sat at home on Saturday night and thought to myself: 'What shall I do if we're drawing the game late on and need to hit it long?'" Pearce told reporters, per the Guardian, after the match. "I've got a good striker in Jon Macken, who is really disappointed, but I wanted to unsettle them and in some ways it did.

Manchester City v Middlesbrough

“It unsettled everyone . . . them and us."

No wonder we haven’t seen Pearce back in the Premier League since he left City in 2007.

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