Column: what might have been for Nigel Pearson
I wonder how Nigel Pearson felt on Sunday night?
Proud? Gutted? Both? Pearson, the man who performed last year’s Leicester City miracle to set up this year’s Leicester City miracle.
The man who built the current side, the man who signed PFA player of the year Riyadh Mahrez plus Jamie Vardy, Robert Huth and Wes Morgan.
The former Sheffield Wednesday skipper who, in two spells, got Leicester out of League 1 in 2009 and into the Premier League in 2014.
The manager who conjured up seven wins from their last nine Premier League games to stay up last season. You know, the one they sacked in the summer. Talk about mixed feelings.
Who knows what emotions were going on as he watched player after Leicester player troop onto the stage at the PFA awards to pick up gongs in the latest instalment in the Premier League’s most outrageous story yet. The story of the provincial pretenders poised to win the Premier League.
Of course current City boss Claudio Ranieri took the spirit of Pearson’s team and built on it with his experience, a couple of new players and an unprecedented assault on the top tier of English football. Credit to him.
Historically Leicester are a lesser team than Wednesday and United who’ve both won the league and FA Cup in their history, City have won neither. When Pearson took over for his second spell at the club in November 2011 Leicester were 12th in the Championship.
He took them up, kept them up and they sacked him.
The moment that prompted Gary Lineker to tweet: “Getting LCFC promoted and the greatest escape ever, Pearson is sacked? Are the folk running football stupid? Yes.”
Pearson still lives in Sheffield and could occasionally be spotted back then, wire-rimmed glasses on nose, studiously reading one of the broadsheets in the Sheffield Tap on a Friday afternoon, as he commuted to the East Midlands.
What must this thoughtful, complex and currently underemployed man have been thinking as he watched the team he built scoop top PFA honours?
There’s talk of an imminent offer for him from Aston Villa or a summertime switch to Middlesbrough.
No doubt his talent and drive will bring him more successful days.
But you can’t help wondering what his thoughts are on missing out on possibly the biggest surprise at the top of English football since Forest won it in 1978.