Big interview: Former Sheffield Wednesday captain Nigel Pearson on playing, managing and living in the Steel City

It is 32 years and counting that Nigel Pearson has lived in Sheffield.

Tuesday, 28th May 2019, 10:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th May 2019, 10:54 am

It is safe to say Pearson has always felt a strong connection to the city.

It is not just due to the fact that he spent seven years of his playing career at Sheffield Wednesday.

Nigel Pearson is taking part in the Three Peaks challenge this weekend

Many of his and wife Nicky's friends live in the area. Their children also grew up in Sheffield and are all diehard Wednesdayites.

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The city has always been a big part of Pearson's life.

Speaking candidly from his Sheffield home, Pearson told The Star: "I love living here. It is a big city but it has a small town feel.

"It feels like lots of smaller towns merged into one.

Dom Howson pictured interviewing Nigel Pearson.

"I never get tired of coming home. Every time I drive into the part of the city where we live, it is trees everywhere. It is a really well kept secret for me.

"I know lots of people who aren't from Sheffield but live here. I suppose it happens in a lot of cities but all I can say is we have enjoyed our time here."

As a player, Pearson cemented his place in Wednesday folklore by helping the club famously beat Manchester United at Wembley to lift the League Cup in 1991.

Flashback: Nigel Pearson and Ron Atkinson celebrate Sheffield Wednesday's League Cup triumph at Wembley in 1991

"I was here for seven years and people always forget that we had some tough times too," recalled Pearson, who played just under 200 times for the Owls. "They remember the good moments and we had a really good side when Ron (Ron Atkinson) really started to pull the side together.

"After Ron left, Trevor (Francis) inherited a really good side but added some really good players as well.

"Through the early 90s, it was a very, very good, competitive team.

"We had lots of senior players who were good players. We had some outstanding individuals but the collective was quite a special thing.

Pearson is looking to get back into football management

"If you look at the team photos from that era, it is amazing how many of them have managed. It is probably only one or two who haven't so it is quite incredible."

Pearson's name has often cropped up in the past two decades whenever Wednesday have been searching for a manager. Does Pearson ever see himself managing the club one day?

The 55-year-old: "You never say never but I like living in Sheffield.

"I have been quoted as saying I have an emotional attachment (to the club) but what I don't want is emotional baggage to do a job.

"Football management is about making tough decisions. As a football manager, you want to make fans happy by being successful but you can't keep everybody happy all the time because you have to sometimes make decisions that are unpopular or not always understandable.

"Sheffield has been such a big part of my life and family's life that I don't really want to put that at risk for a job.

"Football management in the modern day is not what it used to be. It is more intrusive.

"There is more to my life than work and that is the angle I'm coming from.

"So this is not me saying I don't want to do it and I am never going to do it. I might never have the opportunity.

"I have never turned it down before because I have never been given the opportunity. We are talking hypothetically.

"I like living here and I am not particularly prepared to put important parts of my life at risk for a job."

Pearson, currently out of work since being sacked by Belgian Second Division club OH Leuven last February, still keeps a close eye on his old club's results. He believes Sheffield United's success in securing promotion to the Premier League puts a "little more pressure" on the Owls heading into the 2019/20 season.

Pearson said: "It does ramp up the pressure but they are in safe hands with Steve Bruce. Steve has got a really good track record. He has managed Hull and Birmingham before and got promotions with them.

"He is an experienced man who will understand what is necessary, not just on the football side, but also the needs of the fans and the club.

"Managers unfortunately don't get the time and patience they need and maybe with United's success this year that tolerance will be a little lower.

"But Steve is a calm enough man and has surrounded himself with the right people. I think his record speaks for itself.

"He has a wealth of experience which I think will help.

"If you think you've got the right man in charge, then it is vitally important to trust that judgement you made when you brought that person in and allow him to manage the club in his own way."

He went on to praise United boss Chris Wilder, saying: "He has done an exceptional job there in creating a culture which I would say reminds me of Sheffield United of old for sure."

Can Wednesday use the Blades' achievements as added motivation to end their 19-year top-flight exile?

Pearson said: "Steve will be looking at getting promotion anyway.

"I don't know how he will be using that (United's promotion). I'm not even going to guess whether he will be talking about it at all.

"The point is they have to concentrate on themselves. They have a different group of players, a different dynamic at the club and a different way of running the business.

"What is important is they do it their way for sure.

"But when you live in a city like this where there is such rivalry, it certainly will not be a comfortable time for the Wednesday supporters. Their United mates and colleagues will be reminding them of it.

"If it (United's promotion) is another incentive, then fine but I look at it from a more pragmatic way as a football manager and say it is important that the good work that was done in the second half of the season here is taken forward.

"I'm sure Steve's preparations for the season will be very thorough and they will do what they can to get back to the Holy Land."

*Nigel Pearson will attempt to complete the Three Peaks Challenge within 24 hours over the weekend of Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2. Pearson is set to tackle Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon with his wife’s sister-in-law Julie Williams, who is doing it in memory of her father who passed away in 2011, Gareth Challinor, who broke pelvis, tibia and fibula, and his arm in a serious motorbike accident, and Gareth's wife Leanne Challinor.

The quartet are raising money for the Welsh Air Ambulance Charitable Trust, the University Hospital of North Midlands and the Wolverhampton & District MS Therapy Centre, who all helped Gareth on his road to recovery.

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