I confess I am biased. I like Nigel Pearson. Chiefly because, unlike so many who have cast aspersions upon him, I got to know him over a period of time.
He’s old school. He calls a spade a shovel. He can be stubborn, yes. He doesn’t suffer fools at all, let alone gladly. He speaks his mind regardless of who he is talking to. As a captain he was a leader. He still has the mentality of a leader now. He’s under pressure as Leicester City look set for relegation.
I have no idea if he has, to use that cliche, “lost the dressing room.” The players must be confused this week. Their manager was sacked and reinstated within the space of hours.
Pearson criticised the Match of the Day presentation team for their comments regarding his touchline confrontation with Crystal Palace player, James McArthur. The FA have announced that Pearson will not be disciplined for seemingly grabbing the player by the throat.
For his part, James McArthur sought to play down the incident. He said: “These things happen. I’ve collided into him and he’s said his reaction was only a joke, so I shall take it in that matter. Pearson said: “It’s not helpful when the three fountains of knowledge on Match of the Day make a mountain out of a molehill. There’s nothing in that.”
Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker is still well connected with Leicester City, a club he represented with great credit. He responded thus: “If I was a fountain of knowledge I would tell you that he was sacked by one of the owners family and reinstated by another. But then I’m not.”
On Sunday evening, after the club released a statement saying they had not sacked the manager, Pearson spoke to Pat Murphy of the BBC. He said: “The club have made the statement and I am happy to prepare my side for the next game at Arsenal. I’m not prepared to talk about it any more. Sorry.”
Pat Murphy said on BBC 5Live: “Nigel Pearson is good value. They have only been ‘pants’ for a couple of games this season, they have fourteen games left and are four points from safety. They could still just get away with it but they are due to play Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City and Tottenham in quick succession.
“It would have been the wrong decision to sack him yesterday. Sometimes the strength of a leader, and he is a natural leader, can also be his undoing.
“Ron Atkinson told me last year that Nigel was the best captain he ever managed. And he managed Bryan Robson, for example. Ron said Nigel Pearson at Sheffield Wednesday was a fantastic leader and he knew Pearson would be a good manager. Incidentally, the stats show that Nigel has won 78 and lost 54 of his 167 games in charge at Leicester City. I think that’s not a bad effort in three years and two months.”
I scream when I hear modern day football players being asked about feeling pressure. The word should not be used in relation to someone who is paid well to play football. It’s an insult to those who work in truly stressful jobs for a pittance. Nurses for one.
But even I have to acknowledge that football managers are placed under pressure. Foreign owners who don’t understand the game and are trigger happy. Supporters who go on phone-in shows and social media demanding the head of the manager. Players who so often down tools because they’ve had enough of the manager and want him gone.
When things go well the players are praised. When results go wrong, it’s the manager what gets the blame!
After he finished playing, Nigel Pearson went on to assist the likes of Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough and Sam Allardyce at Newcastle. In a newspaper interview a year ago, Nigel Pearson spoke to Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph about the pressure of being a manager.
He said: “I love football, but I remember working with Sam Allardyce at Newcastle and he said ‘I (expletive) hate match days.’ I know where he’s coming from, the nerves, emotion, that build up to the game is horrible. This job is love-hate, it motivates me but it also brings the worst out of me. It’s like being a masochist.”
Of course something could be done. Managers could be allowed to have a cooling off period, post match, before they had to speak to numerous media outlets.
But, of course, that will not happen. After all, football sold its soul to the devil years ago. Sky Sports, and TV executives at other companies; they are the people who run the game. They are the tail, football the dog.
Nigel Pearson needs an owner who supports him no matter what. Not a family from Thailand who are falling out among themselves regarding who should be the Leicester City manager. He would benefit from supporters who appreciate his honesty and determination. And Pearson needs a squad with the sort of work ethic he himself demonstrated in his own playing career.
It doesn’t look like he’s got any of that at Leicester. Were I a football club owner I’d hire him tomorrow, put in place the support structure he needs and then I would leave him to it.
Nigel is a good man working in a bad place. Not just Leicester. But football. A sport that is now a business and one in which calling a spade a shovel is looked upon as a sign of insurrection. When, in fact, such honesty, blunt speaking and a candid manner is exactly what is needed.
He may lose it from time to time. But he gets results. Isn’t that what people claim matters most?