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Stephen Paul Pearson (born 2 October 1982) is a Scottishmarker football who plays for Derby County. He is a full international for Scotland, and also played for Motherwell, Celtic and Stoke City.

Early career

Pearson was born in Lanarkmarker. As a boy, he attended Our Lady's High School in Motherwellmarker and is one of the school's numerous footballing alumni, a list which includes such luminaries as Sir Matt Busby, Billy McNeill, and Bobby Murdoch. Though he grew up a Celtic fan, he began his footballing career at Motherwell, after they watched him score the winning goal in the final of the under-18 Scottish Schools competition.

Motherwell were a financially troubled club at this time and in 2002 they were placed in administration to prevent liquidation, with 19 senior players released. This period of adversity did however have one redeeming feature, as many talented young players, notably Pearson and his friend and fellow emerging talent James McFadden, gained instant elevation to first team status and a chance to develop and hone their skills more quickly than contemporaries at other clubs.

After a period of acclimatisation under new manager Terry Butcher during which Motherwell finished bottom of the SPL in the 2002–03 season, avoiding relegation only because Falkirk's Brockville Parkmarker ground failed to reach SPL standard, by December 2003 the youthful Motherwell team were comfortably in mid-table. Pearson's form was such that he gained a surprise call-up to Berti Vogts' full Scotland squad, winning his first cap in the 1–0 Euro 2004 play-off victory over the Netherlands, and attracted interest from clubs at home and abroad.

Celtic

However, Motherwell's financial predicament ensured they were unable to refuse any reasonable offers and when Celtic manager Martin O'Neill offered £350,000 in January 2004, Pearson fulfilled a childhood ambition by moving to Parkheadmarker. He continued his fine form, notably in Celtic's epic UEFA Cup defeat of FC Barcelona, was in the starting eleven in the Cup Final and won the Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year award for the 2003–04 season.

Pearson was unable to match these achievements in 2004–05. He increased his international tally to six caps, but his first team opportunities were limited by injury, and he played just nine games for Celtic that season. The 2005–06 season saw little improvement as he made only three starting appearances in a relatively injury-hit season. In January 2006 he held talks with manager Gordon Strachan, who reassured him as to his future with the club. Pearson did however make 17 substitute appearances and scored a crucial goal against Hearts at Tynecastlemarker as Celtic came from behind to win 3–2.

Though Pearson had been involved in two Scottish Premier League-winning campaigns with Celtic, he struggled to hold down a regular place. English Championship side Derby County, managed by his former Motherwell manager Billy Davies, made a bid of £600,000 in August 2006, but Strachan said he was not for sale. The departure of Stiliyan Petrov to Aston Villa gave Pearson an opportunity to regain a place in the Celtic midfield and, despite rumours of a move away from Celtic Park, he went on to score the third goal against Benfica in the group stages of the 2006–07 Champions League, to take the score to 3–0. He described this goal as "the moment of my career".

Derby County

Pearson eventually signed a three-and-a-half-year deal for Derby on 10 January 2007 for a fee of £750,000. and made his debut in a 1–0 win which put Derby level on points at the top of the division, A latter season drop in form saw the club finish in third place and having to compete in the playoffs. Pearson played a key role in Derby's success, winning a penalty in a 2–1 win over Southampton in the semi-final first leg and then scoring the winning goal, his first for the club, as Derby ran out 1–0 winners over West Bromwich Albion in the 2007 Championship playoff final. Pearson's strike has been described as "the £60 million goal", such is the perceived value of promotion from the Championship to the Premier League.

Derby struggled badly following promotion and, after a promising beginning to the season Pearson soon found himself out of the side. He was loaned out to Stoke City for three months at the end of the season but only made a few appearances, though he did contribute to the club's promotion, his second in twelve months. Though the move was initially with a view to a permanent deal, Stoke decided not to follow up their interest and he returned to Derby. In July 2008, Birmingham City had a £600,000 bid accepted and Pearson agreed personal terms, but his medical examination revealed a groin tear; the clubs agreed a loan deal instead, but the player rejected this arrangement. When Pearson recovered, he won his place back in the side and scored against Swansea in a 1-1 away draw, but after a handful of starts suffered another injury which kept him out for 4 months. Pearson made his return from injury in the final minutes of Derby's FA Cup 5th round tie against Manchester United on 15 February 2009, but suffered setbacks on his road to recovery, finally starting again for the club against Burnley on 4 April 2009.

References

  1. http://www.theherald.co.uk/sport/72627.html, The Herald. Newsquest.


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