Think of Nigel Pearson and you think big, no-nonsense, centre-half, which is unsurprising, as that’s how and where he made his name in a 17-year career in which he played for Shrewsbury, Sheff Wed, and the Boro. He played against us 11 times, scoring once for Boro, only earning one booking, and was always a big defensive obstacle to get around. For a player never regarded as spectacular, like most central defenders, he achieved more than most on the field, and has had a fairly interesting career off it. He captained Wednesday to League Cup success and promotion to the top division in 1991, and two years later scored the club’s first Premier League goal (at Everton in a 1-1 draw) and helped them to both domestic cup finals, although a broken leg in the League Cup semi meant no Wembley appearances for Nigel. In 1994 he moved to Boro to play for Bryan Robson, and he deservedly became a bit of a hero on Teesside, leading the club to two promotions and three cup finals, before packing it in in 1998.
He moved fairly swiftly into management, and in his first season at Carlisle saw one of his signings score a dramatic late goal to ensure league survival – that signing being goalkeeper Jimmy Glass. However, in a turn of events that would be repeated throughout his subsequent time in management, he left the club in the summer to spend two years coaching at Stoke – as a straightforward centre-half, that must have been a dream job, if a little undemanding. There followed a spell as assistant to his old Boro boss Robbo at West Brom, and he stepped up to caretaker for four games when Robson left in 2006. Ironically, another former Boro centre half, Tony Mowbray, came in as manager and Pearson was off again, resisting the temptation to move back into management at Wednesday by becoming assistant manager up the road. While there, he doubled up as assistant to England U21 boss Stuart Pearce, and twice filled in as the mags’ caretaker manager – firstly when Glenn Roeder left, then, after coaching under Sam Allardyce, replacing the big fella for a single game before the arrival of the messiah. Sorry, Keegan. By February 2008 he’d had enough, though, and left Tyneside for pastures new.
Southampton in the Championship on a rolling contract, which I’ve never understood, as it turned out, and between February and May, Pearson managed enough wins to prevent relegation – with the decisive victory against Sheff Utd coming thanks to a brace from Stern John (ask yer big brother). Despite this, he was replaced after the season’s end, and became manager at Leicester, who’d been relegated to League One when Southampton beat Sheff Utd. Working with Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh, he was manager of the month in August, and engineered the club’s 23 match unbeaten run later that season. Needless to say, they were promoted with several games to spare, and almost repeated the trick the following season, 2009 - 2010, finishing fifth and losing on penalties to Cardiff in the semi-final. Play-offs are over-rated anyway. During his time at Leicester, there had been a few differences of opinion between Pearson and chairman Milan Mandaric, culminating in potential replacement Paulo Sousa sitting with the chairman at the play-off semi and the manager publicly admitting that it was obvious what was afoot. So, he left, and spent the next year and a bit at Hull, newly relegated and financially stretched. When the cloud that had sat over his time at Leicester lifted with the takeover by Vichai Raksriaksorn, he was persuaded to return in November 2011 – a move that was not popular with the Hull support.
What happened to Leicester in the following seasons is now the stuff of legends. They reached the play-off semis in 2013, losing out to Watford, then were champions in 2014, with Pearson collecting manager of the month awards regularly. By Christmas, though, they were bottom of the Prem, and only survived thanks to a 0-0 draw against us, and despite erroneous reports that Pearson had been sacked in February. He was eventually sacked in the June, with at least some of the blame being laid at the feet of his son James, a reserve player, one of three who’d produced a particularly unpleasant video during a tour of Thailand. In came Ranieri, and they won the Premier League the next season, although much credit has been given to Pearson for effectively building the team.
After a year off, he took charge at Derby in May 2016, but only lasted until September after falling out with the owner and crossed the channel a year later to take charge at Aud-Heverlee in Belgium, lasting until February this year.
That’s Nigel, then. Solid player, solid and outspoken manager who’s straight-talking and refusal to bow to those he disagrees with seems to have cost him a few jobs. During his first spell at Leicester, he effectively sacked player Wayne Brown for boasting about voting BNP and fell out with Derby chief Mel Morris’s use of drones to watch training sessions. His sacked/not sacked incident at Leicester was sparked by his apparent attempt to strangle Palace’s James McArthur after a home loss, and his relationship with the Hull owners was strained to say the least. Describing a journalist as “an ostrich” who was “daft” and “stupid” in a post-match press-conference probably wasn’t the best idea either. He also chased the ref who interrupted his half-time team-talk by entering the dressing room but was cleared of any wrong-doing.
In short, he appears to be someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, isn’t scared of the football authorities, and will stick to his guns even if that attitude has cost him personally –the sort of player and manager that you think is great wearing your club badge, but a bit of nutter wearing someone else’s. And he built that team at Leicester. Another thing in his favour is that working with him at Leicester was Kevin Phillips, who’s also expressed desire to take over at SR5 – but perhaps a better option is as right-hand man to someone with managerial experience, and (even better) someone he’s worked with before. Like Nigel Pearson.
As the song said, “He must be happy in his work”, otherwise things might not pan out as we’d want. Is his future as good as sealed?