'Take the bull by the horns'

Ian Pearce attained hero status when he thumped an unstoppable last-gasp equaliser into the top corner at White Hart Lane in April 2002.

There were just seconds remaining when West Ham United's No19 stepped forward and unleashed a rising half-volley past Kasey Keller to secure Harry Redknapp's side a memorable 1-1 draw.

Nearly nine years later and Pearce has called on his modern-day counterparts to do likewise and etch their own names in Hammers folklore by leading the club to Barclays Premier League safety.

The centre-back and occasional emergency striker, now 36, was back at the Boleyn Ground recently. Pearce was naturally greeted warmly by supporters and staff alike on his return to the East End.

"This is a special club and I was lucky to come back and see a few people and say 'Hello'. This was a lovely place to play and I had a fantastic time here. Injuries hampered me a little bit but, other than that, this was a brilliant place to play.

"I'd like to think we can get out of it. We had a good result against Fulham away so that was a boost and we need to build on it and take the bull by the horns.

"The most depressing time I had was getting relegated with West Ham. We didn't get going until after Christmas, but with a bit of luck now there is still time and a good chance. If we get a good run going, we can get out of it and I hope we do."

Pearce spent six-and-a-half years with West Ham, making 163 appearances and scoring ten goals - none of which came in a losing cause.

The Suffolk-born player was part of the side that finished fifth in the Premier League in 1998/99 - the season he also finished second in the Hammer of the Year voting - and seventh in 2001/02.

The memories of playing alongside the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, John Moncur, Joe Cole, Steve Potts, Jermain Defoe and Paolo Di Canio bring a smile to Pearce's face.

"When I looked around we had Rio, Defoe, Carrick and John Moncur, Pottsy and Paolo - we had some great players here and I was very lucky to be playing with them. Every now and then, though, as a defender you wondered where everyone else had gone!"

Inevitably, talk turns to Pearce's unforgettable strike against Tottenham Hotspur.

The home side were leading through Teddy Sheringham's 53rd-minute goal when a clearance broke to him 25 yards from goal. A first-time left-foot strike flew past goalkeeper Kasey Keller and Pearce sped off to celebrate in front of the jubilant travelling supporters.

"The Tottenham one springs to mind all the time. If my boys ever ask me if I did anything special then that's the one I'm going to pull out. It will never happen again, though - a half-volley from outside the box with my left foot! I didn't even know what I was doing at that moment but it was a special time.

"We were one-nil down at the time and I can remember watching it back on the telly and, because it was right at the end, some of the boys in the stand had already left. You could see them sprinting back into the ground! That was a good time.

"I honestly don't know how it happened because my left foot was for standing on! It just dropped down and I remember thinking 'Why not?'. I later played with Kasey Keller at Fulham and he asked me about it and how it happened. I really enjoyed that."