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Honesty or stupidity?

It was widely reported over the weekend that Stuart Pearce is currently working at the club without a contract, stating 'I have not signed a contract because it is not worth the paper it is written on'.

Pearce admits there is a contract on the table but he has not signed it because 'I’ve insisted on clauses that would mean I could leave for free and they would not have to pay me if they got rid of me', I did not cost anything when I became manager, so why should the club get a million or two if I went somewhere else?"

All of which falls perfectly into the nice guy, old school image Pearce has cultivated so far where a mans word is his bond and a handshake with John Wardle means far more than his signature on a contract. But this of course leaves Pearce free to walk out at anytime, and The Sun was quick off the mark to put two and two together and realise it would save the FA a heck of a lot of money if they appointed Pearce, given that Sven will walk away with a sizeable sum tucked under his arm.

Often, loyalty to a club is most displayed by the man in ultimate charge though and several players (established and youngsters) have put pen to paper this season, with certain others (Distin and Barton) still to pledge their future to the club.

But does it matter that Pearce effectively can walk away from the club at any time by virtue of him not being legally tied in the form of a contractual obligation? As we all know - and this is probably more true of managers than players, a contract does not force a manager (or player) to remain with a club. All it does is guarantee the club a compensatory amount if that person terminates the contract without agreeement.

If Pearce had a five year deal with City, and England offered him the job (assuming he wanted it) would that contract keep him at the club? Of course it wouldn't. What it would guarantee is compensation for City to then go out and appoint a new manager. In fairness to Pearce he has said he would not ask for compensation if the club sacked him. Given our penchance for dismissing managers this would be no bad move, as I'm sure we are still paying off managers going back to the days of Mel Machin.

Where I am in disagreement with Pearce on the contract issue is that he is the figurehead of the club, responsible for developing and taking it forward. At the very least signing a contract (whether it is worth the paper it's written on or not) is a symbolic gesture of his commitment to the club (which has never been in doubt) and sends a sound message to the players, board and fans alike.