Monday 19 February 2018

Pearson belief has Leicester looking up

Leicester City's Nigel Pearson is a coach who refuses to be pigeon holed or packaged
Leicester City's Nigel Pearson is a coach who refuses to be pigeon holed or packaged

Kevin Garside

It is said by psychologists that an individual cannot be ridiculed, shamed or insulted by another without first giving his consent.

Nigel Pearson has spent a life in football refusing to give his. Sticks and stones might break his bones but words will never hurt him. You can say what you like about Pearson, frankly he doesn't give a damn.

He is a coach who refuses to be pigeon-holed or packaged. He is as resolute and unbending as the black stuff they used to haul out of the ground where he was born and as forthright as those who did the digging.

If you didn't know he was a centre-half from Nottingham, it might take you 10 seconds to guess once the questions started at a post-match press conference.

Pearson has in this season alone dismissed one journalist as a "p****", instructed a Leicester fan behind the dugout to "f*** off and die", grappled, albeit in jest, with an opposing footballer - James McArthur of Crystal Palace, whom he once tried to buy - and clobbered Leicester's most famous son, Gary Lineker, with a tax jibe after the presenter, in Pearson's view, poured petrol on the McArthur flames on Match of the Day.


For one mad hour or two after the McArthur episode it was thought Pearson had lost his job. He does not directly counter that idea even now, though there is more chance of snow falling in Mali than Pearson commenting on what he regards as an in-house affair.

So here he is, on the eve of the home game with Chelsea, on the point of delivering Leicester from the evil of relegation, a triumph of coaching that seemed beyond anyone's expectations other than his own, and in its way as impressive as the work of the man in the opposing technical area tonight, Jose Mourinho.

Pearson is the anti-Jose in his disinclination to speak, his resistance to the spotlight. He has none of Mourinho's outward charm or bombast, yet all of his intelligence and every ounce of his determination and belief, so much so that his was the lone voice of defiance in the dark days of recurring defeats when Leicester where anchored to the bottom of the Premier League.

After producing arguably the display of the season against Manchester United in September, reeling off four goals in 20 minutes to overcome a deficit that stood at 3-1 on the hour, Leicester would not win again for three months.

After five successive defeats in December, including a loss at home to Liverpool which triggered the ire of the fan behind the dugout and speculation about Pearson's position, there was a sense of inevitability about the end awaiting both him and his team.

Perhaps he knew something we didn't. Maybe the Thai ownership is savvier than we imagine. Pearson was the man who brought Leicester to the gates of nirvana, playing vibrant, attacking football. They have moved the ball around well all season in the Premier League, but before this month of plenty had been consistently on the wrong end of fine margins.

It is entirely fitting that the four consecutive victories this month that have lifted Leicester out of the bottom three have had no discernible impact on Pearson's mood. He plays a consistently straight bat to enquiries about the health of his team or the prospects of maintaining this run to the line.

A query about tonight's rearranged fixture being problematic, or if he had a problem with it, met the standard forward defensive.

"Whether I have or haven't is irrelevant," he said. "That is the schedule you have and what we do is work around it. We don't work against it and use it as an excuse. That is what it is. This game is rearranged because of the League Cup final and it couldn't be put in any earlier. There is not lot I can do about it."

Tonight's encounter with Chelsea is a bonus ball they can afford to lose, a state of affairs unimaginable at the start of the month. The one away game in the five remaining is at Sunderland the team who have replaced them in the Premier League dead zone.

Is Pearson feeling the pressure? To a degree, but only in a limited sense. He knows as a coach he is only as good as his players, and in them he trusts.

"At this end of the table it is always more difficult," he said.

"In my experience, and having observed and worked with people when I have been an assistant or as a player, sometimes I have seen colleagues who found it difficult to deal with.

"When you are in sides that are winning, most people can deal with that sort of pressure, whereas at this end it can be quite a bit different." (© Independent News Service)

Leicester v Chelsea, live, Sky Sports 1, 7.45

Irish Independent

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