Manchester City haven’t always been one of the best clubs in the world.
Qualifying for continental competition would have been a great achievement for a side that were promoted back to England’s top tier just three years prior.
But things were getting desperate with the scores 1-1 with a few minutes to go.
Fortunately for Pearce, he had a trick up his sleeve if things weren’t going City’s way.
Pearce subbed on a goalkeeper, Nicky Weaver, in place of Claudio Reyna.
David James, who was in between the sticks, moved up front. That was despite having Jon Macken, a striker who City paid £5m for, on the bench.
It was an incredibly bold move by Pearce. But did it work out?
The short answer is no. James looked like a fish out of water up front.
In one moment, he produced a neat turn inside the box and then completely wiped out a defender.
In another, James left two Middlesbrough players on the ground after messing up a volley.
He did, however, win a penalty for his side after his presence caused Franck Queudrue to handle inside the box.
Unfortunately, there would be no fairytale ending as Robbie Fowler’s penalty was saved by Mark Schwarzer.
James’ highlights from the game have emerged and they still look hilarious to this day. Watch them below:
Pearce spoke about his decision to put Pearce up front in 2019.
“I was sat at home the night before thinking I’ve got to win the game. I was thinking about what I could do if the match was a stalemate late on,” Pearce explained, per Manchester Evening News.
“I thought to myself I’ll put James up front. I had that up my sleeve. Jon Macken (who was on the bench) was not scoring and playing well by the way.
“I told the kit man to print me an outfield James number one shirt and I said, ‘don’t tell him for goodness sake’. He didn’t know anything about it.
“My assistant at the time said he didn’t want anything to do with it. When it came to 75 minutes he said ‘no chance, you’re on your own you idiot’.
“James thought I was taking him off but when he realised he loved it. I’ve got to say I didn’t give him any instruction, though.
“I thought he was going to get on the end of things but he ended up playing as a number ten. He ended up tripping over the ball. He had the worst impact of all time.
“If Robbie Fowler had scored the penalty in the 92nd minute it would have been a masterstroke, though.”