When Gary Megson departed the Walkers Stadium for Bolton Wanderers a friend remarked that it felt like being “dumped by a fat bird”. Nigel Pearson’s departure gives rise to the same feelings of rejection, but this time it’s like being dumped in favour of a woman out of form and lamenting the depreciation of her best assets. Whatever Nigel Pearson sees in Hull is a mystery to the rest of us, but it’s never worth staying in a relationship if one partner doesn’t have the heart for it.
So let’s remember the good times.
Nigel Pearson has been Leicester’s best manager in a decade. In terms of victories, his win ratio of 51.4% makes him City’s most successful manager of all time.
Pearson led the Foxes to their first win of any division in 29 years and presided over the clubs longest unbeaten league run of 23 matches. Had penalties at Cardiff played out differently, he might have been the first club manager to lead a side from English football’s third tier to the top flight in successive seasons since Joe Royle.
In his first season, Pearson’s side scored more league goals (84) than any other team in the top 4 divisions. Their march to the title was built on the back of 27 wins, 19 clean sheets and just four defeats.
Last season Leicester became experts in grinding out results when it mattered, wining more matches by a single goal (14) than any other Championship side. The Foxes didn’t lose any of the 24 matches in which the scored first and managed an eight match unbeaten run in the second tier for the first time since 2002/03.
Better still, City got into the habit of scoring late. Under Pearson, City scored 26 league goals in the last 10 minutes, conceding only 14.
The winning mentality was fostered by a group of successful signings. Jack Hobbs, Chris Weale and Bruno Berner are much celebrated but Michael Morrison, Aleksander Tunchev, David Martin and Kerrea Gilbert also deserve a mention. Going forward Lloyd Dyer injected pace into a side sorely lacking it in 2007/08 and loan signings like Martyn Waghorn and Mark Davies proved that Pearson and his backroom staff had an eye for creative talent.
It wasn’t all roses of course. Robbie Neilson and Ryan McGivern remain unconvincing whilst Astrit Ajdarevic managed just 68 minutes of first team action, but these were the exceptions and not the rule.
Best of all, Pearson managed to do what seven previous City manages had failed to do, get the best out of Matty Fryatt. Before Pearson, Fryatt had managed 11 goals in 81 league appearances fro Leicester. Under the guidance of the new man, Fryatt netted 38 times in 75 league games. It has been a remarkable turnaround.
Whatever the reasons for Pearson’s departure there’s no doubt the club is in a far healthier condition thanks to his work. The feelings of disappointment are strong, and they’ll be even harder to digest if rumours about the breakdown of Pearson’s contract negotiations are true. But his record deserves respect, and for that reason I’ll find it difficult to jeer when Hull City visit the Walkers on 16th October.