Supporters starting to ask questions of tactics and team selection
19 February ~ Many Leicester City fans were taken aback on Sunday February 8 when news started to break about Nigel Pearson’s apparent sacking. Even with the team bottom of the Premier League and Pearson having appeared to throttle an opposition player the day before. Two seasons ago when the team’s promotion push fell apart on the back of a nine-game winless run, many expected Pearson to be sacked by owners, the King Power group. He was allowed to continue and Leicester’s romp to the championship last season was a joyous climax to ten years of lower division misery.
This season’s 13-game run without a victory would have caused many owners to act but Pearson was backed even when he swore at a Leicester supporter. This was in contrast to King Power’s predecessor Milan Mandaric, who got through three managers during the 2007-08 season which ended in relegation to League One for the first time in the club’s history.
After picking up points in a tough run of early season games, including Jamie Vardy running the Manchester United defence ragged, hopes were high for Premier League survival. It was a false dawn. The players who got City promoted have failed to make the step up. Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater, Anthony Knockaert, David Nugent and Vardy have been unable to show the consistency and quality needed despite being among the best players in the Championship last season. The squad was not strengthened sufficiently over the summer despite Pearson’s pledge to get transfer work done early.
So what happened two Sundays ago? If Gary Lineker’s cryptic tweet is to be believed a member of the Srivaddhanaprabha family lost patience with Pearson before being made to backtrack. The board is divided – hardly a vote of confidence. Pearson’s taciturn interview style and tetchy dealings with the local media have not endeared him to all, but he has earned credit with City fans having succeeded where so many others have failed.
Having allowed him to spend £7million on Andrej Kramaric in the January transfer window and Tony Pulis ensconced at West Brom it would seem that there were few options for the City owners but to allow Pearson to continue to the end of the season at least. Indeed many City fans feel he should be given the chance to take us back up should what looks like inevitable relegation occur.
The positive nature of Leicester’s performances and inability of rivals to pull away mean many still believe. But that number is dwindling. Inter City crowd trouble at Old Trafford between pro- and anti-Pearson groups is a sign that feelings are beginning to run high. Chants of “Pearson sort it out” and “What a load of rubbish” were evident at Villa Park, the first openly anti-Pearson crowd response.
It is the team’s inability to beat those around them that frustrates so much. Fans are questioning Pearson’s tactical selections, notably in playing three centre-backs against a Villa side with the worst goalscoring record in the country. We may never know whether Pearson was, briefly, sacked last weekend but Nigel is running out of friends in the stands, in the media and maybe within the club. Steve Brown