Name: Stuart Pearson
Date of birth: 21 June 1949, Kingston-upon-Hull, England
Position: Forward
Debut: Division Two, Wrexham 1-0 West Ham United, 18 August 1979
Final game: Division One, West Ham United 1-1 Manchester City, 2 February 1982
Appearances: 50
Goals: 10

Stuart Pearson is a big United fan.

Just don't ask him to choose between Manchester or West Ham.

The former Hammers hero came to the Boleyn Ground in August 1979 after five memorable years at Old Trafford - including an FA Cup final win and loss - and his arrival coincided with a golden age in his new club's history.

"What a lot of people say is that when you leave Manchester United you go downhill, you can't match that. Well I proved that wasn't the case because I won three medals in the three years when I was at West Ham and United didn't win anything in that same period. It was a great move."

Pearson played his part as the Hammers won the 1980 FA Cup, earned promotion to Division One in 1980/81 and finished runners-up in the 1981 League Cup final.

"It was fantastic side and it was great to play in, especially as a striker. I had David Cross up there, Alan Devonshire was as good as you are going to get as a wide man. Defensively with Parksey, Bonzo, Alvin Martin, then Trevor Brooking as well, you could go on and name the whole team. They were all great lads.

"I see them every now and then but not as much as I would like to. We all got on really well."

Distance is a factor for Pearson's ability to stay in touch, having spent the last six years on Spain's east coast where he enjoys the quiet life at La Manga Club near Murcia. He is still a keen sportsman and can regularly be found on one of the three golf courses near his home.

Every now and then, though, he will encounter a fan eager to relive former glories."There are Manchester United fans everywhere and West Ham too. It is always a good craic. It is amazing but a lot of people even forget that I played for West Ham.

"They remember United or England but I say 'What about the 1980 final'? I wouldn't have minded but I thought I played quite well that day at Wembley!"

Indeed, he did, with Pearson's crossshot being converted by Brooking for the only goal of the game in the 13th minute. So involved was he, that the television coverage initially showed him as the scorer. Pearson said: "Trevor couldn't get out of the way of my cross, and it hit him on the head. He went on to get a knighthood after that so he has got a lot to thank me for!"

Now 61, Pearson keeps track of all the Barclays Premier League matches on TV and also follows the top Spanish sides as well. His main thoughts are never too far away from Old Trafford or the Boleyn Ground.

"It has been amazing for Manchester United to go undefeated to Christmas and they will be worthy winners if they can win the title. On the other hand, it has been surprising that West Ham have struggled when you look at the players in the team. They have really started to turn it around though."

There are a few individuals that have particularly caught his eye - including Javier Hernandez and Scott Parker. "Hernandez is a talent, you always feel he is going to score goals, he works hard and puts defenders under pressure.

"Scott has had a great season, he keeps them together, he works hard and passes, comes in with the odd important goal. He is in great form."

Pearson admits to having some regret after his playing days, that included 15 England caps and a goal in the Red Devils' 1977 FA Cup triumph, were cut short by a knee injury. He had three operations in 1979 alone - "It was a bit of a mess and I was never quite the same afterwards" - but still looks back with fondness on his time in east London.

"I had three great years but didn't play as much as I would have liked. I played all the important games which were fantastic for me. I look back with fondness. The celebrations after the cup final were special.

"We had a function and a few of the lads went out including Frank Lampard, Patsy Holland and myself. We were all a little worse for wear coming back on the open top bus the next day but it was just amazing seeing all the people. The support was great."

The Yorkshireman is backing the Hammers to give their fans something else to cheer in the next few months - Premier League survival. His preferred result would be a draw for both teams this afternoon, in the hope their respective rivals can slip up at the same time.

"It is a difficult match for me," he said. "I hope both clubs are happy at the end of the season and I honestly think that will be the case."