In a stunning turn up for the books, on Saturday, Aston Villa lost a game of football! Only their 5th in the last five games! Could never have seen it coming! As such with runs of form that only include 2 wins in an entire 19 match managerial spell the vultures are truly circling around Remi Garde’s head.
On Sunday morning the Mirror on Sunday reported Garde is to be sacked in the next 48 hours ( link ) and the main name in the frame is Nigel Pearson. Is that a good idea?
With a managerial career that of note includes Southampton, Leicester, Hull and Leicester again, mostly below England’s top tier Pearson would seem to be the sort of experienced manager that the Villa are desperate for. Despite this, he’s been a controversial figure across his career, and there are more than a few question marks about him.
Early in his career he rescued Southampton from relegation to League One on the last day of the 2007-08 season before taking the top job at Leicester City. Alongside former Chelsea Chief Scout Steve Walsh and First Team Coach Craig Shakespeare as his co-assistant managers Pearson got Leicester promoted from League One as champions at the first attempt, including a 23 game unbeaten streak and two League One Manager of the Month awards. The subsequent season in the Championship saw Leicester complete a full calendar year of being unbeaten at home and won Pearson a championship Manager of the Month award in February. Finishing in 5th place, Leicester were knocked out of the playoffs in a penalty shootout against Cardiff City.
Despite this Pearson and club owner Milan Mandaric had a fractious relationship and Pearson left the club that June to take over at Hull.
Amid relegation-induced financial strain Pearson, along with Shakespeare and Walsh guided Hull to an 11th place finish in their first season in the championship after a slow start.
Staying at Hull for just over a season, Pearson and his deputies returned to Leicester in November 2011 despite Hull starting the season strongly. In his first season back he led the club to a ninth placed finish, before the following season in which a tough start was turned round to earn Pearson two more Manager of the Month awards and a playoff position finish.
Despite finishing on the losing side in that game against Watford, his side bounced back the next year and won promotion to the Premier League as champions and two more Championship Manager of the Month awards for Pearson.
The rest of Pearson’s time at Leicester I’m sure you will be quite aware of, with their win over United, long winless run, his Manager of the Month award for April, their miraculous great escape and then his sacking in the summer.
As far as resumes for potential replacements for our out-of-his-depth Frenchman go, on first inspection Pearson’s looks impressive- surely a man with that wealth of experience of success in the Championship should be favourite to take over and raise us back to the Promised Land? Perhaps not.
One of the major sticking points to any appointment of Nigel Pearson should be Walsh and Shakespeare, who both remain at champions-elect Leicester and would surely choose to remain. Having not managed without his right-hand men since Southampton back in 2008, without guarantees that they would join him any appointment of the former Leicester manager would be a stab in the dark.
Furthermore, one only has to look as far as Leicester this season to question Pearson’s ability- despite signing relatively few players Claudio Ranieri has changed a squad from one that one that sat at the bottom of the table for weeks (21 to be precise) to one that has occupied to top spot for ages (19 so far). Whilst Pearson does deserve credit for building this potential title-winning side, one must question quite how he struggled so much with it. Leicester fans themselves questioned Pearson’s ability tactically, as demonstrated by this tweet:
Thirdly, Nigel Pearson has a somewhat spotty record in terms of controversies, particularly whilst at Leicester. These include outing Wayne Brown as a BNP voter and forcing him out the club, earning himself a sacking thanks to his poor relationship with club owner Milan Mandaric, being sent to the stands in 2012 after angrily reacting towards a referee entering the dressing room to tell the side to hurry up and come to the pitch, putting his hand around James McArthur’s neck, almost earning himself another sacking that night, actually getting sacked again after falling out with the owners following his son’s actions in the summer and of course, the ostrich moment. Do we really want a man like him running our football club?
Whilst it’s clear Pearson has had success, and indeed a proven track record of it, none of it has come without his tried and tested coaching team and this surely is a huge concern. One only needs to look as far as our current manager to see how much they can struggle without their preferred team alongside them, even the great Brian Clough couldn't replicate his success without Peter Taylor by his side.
Frankly, is it worth taking another punt like this when the very existence of our club is at stake? In this writer’s opinion, the man is best avoided.
As always, Up the Villa.