Nigel Pearson was apparently sacked by Leicester City in February. But then the news came that he had not lost his job. This time, however, there is no doubt that the 53-year-old’s second spell as manager at the King Power Stadium is indeed over, news which came as a bolt from the blue right in the middle of the close-season.
He guided them to promotion from the Championship, earning them top-flight status for the first time since 2004, but it soon seemed as though they would not be in the promised land for long as the Foxes languished at the bottom of the table for much of 2014-15. That was until a remarkable run of results saw them clinch safety with a game still to spare and make an escape which was hailed as arguably the most monumental in Premier League history. Some even called for Pearson to be nominated for Manager of the Year.
So that meant there were no grounds for him to be sacked regarding events on the pitch, but away from it there have been a succession of controversies which have harmed perceptions of the club, certainly from the point of view of the Thai owners. In the last year, Pearson has been charged for verbally abusing a disgruntled supporter, has had run-ins with the press, and was involved in a bizarre tangle with former transfer target James McArthur, now of Crystal Palace.
More recently, there has been the disrepute caused by the actions of three academy graduates who took part in a racist sex tape in Thailand. All three were sacked, but one damning factor was that one of those involved was Pearson’s own son, James. Both parties have now paid the ultimate price, but in Nigel’s case, the whole episode must have only added to simmering tensions that already existed with the owners, and those critical of the decision to relieve the former Southampton and Hull City boss of his duties were not privy to such events behind the scenes.
But the timing was abrupt, as to all intents and purposes it all seemed to be business as usual at the East Midlands club, with the high-profile arrival of striker Shinji Okazaki having followed the permanent signing of Robert Huth, while regular first teamer Jeffrey Schlupp has just put pen to paper on a new long-term contract.
It all goes to show that even away from the field, the Premier League can throw the occasional curveball that throws everybody off guard when they least expect it, especially when it comes to managerial changes. Just last year, Tony Pulis caused a huge shock by leaving his job as manager of Crystal Palace less than 48 hours before the start of the season, and within the space of a week in 2010, Chris Hughton and Sam Allardyce were both sacked by Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers respectively, causing widespread disbelief.
One morning in September 2007, football supporters across the country were waking up to the amazing news that Jose Mourinho had left Chelsea and been replaced by Avram Grant, and a little over two years later it was a similar situation at Tottenham. In the early hours they not only dismissed Juande Ramos, but had already plucked Harry Redknapp from Portsmouth to be his successor.
As for Pearson, his services will be in-demand thanks to his achievement in taking Leicester to the Premier League and then consolidating with the assistance of an entertaining style of football. But given the events that have eventually led to his exit, appointing him may be seen by some as a bit of a gamble.
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