By Ben Stebbings       @Stebbiino  

Will Nigel Pearson’s touchline tomfoolery permanently alter the footballing world’s perception of him? Moreover, should it? We delve into the potential repercussions of one moment of madness.

In the vein of many a Nigel Pearson post-match press conference, let’s skip the starter and get straight to the meat and potatoes of the issue; the incident itself at the heart of Pearson’s trial by court of public opinion is really, in relative terms, much ado about nothing.

The rough-and-tumble sideline skirmish with Crystal Palace midfield steamer James McArthur, was heavy on hushed whispers, shirt pulling and baleful glaring, but disappointingly threadbare when it came to mano a mano action.

The widely circulated picture, showing Pearson grabbing McArthur by the throat, (visible above and on every back page and sports channel from here to the four thrones of Cair Paravel) is willfully illusory. The image captures a millisecond of inaction whilst implying much more to the casual gasper-by.

Alas, cursory Premier League followers, there was no Simpsons-inspired neck wringing, no moment in which McArthur begged for his life as the Leicester City manager laughed psychotically and, though we’d be loath to discount the possibility Pearson was readying McArthur for a chokeslam from hell, there were no genuine signs of harmful intent.

Even Alan Pardew, emphatically reinvigorated at Palace and presented with the perfect opportunity to complete his heroic journey of managerial redemption, saw no reason to play peacemaker here. There was, of course, a chance he realised the inherent irony present in such an act and thought better of it, but given the rampant egomania that often reveals itself through infamous tales of the ex-Newcastle manager, that scenario is about as likely as a Spurs fan giving a fair-minded opinion on Harry Kane.

In relative terms, Pardew’s temple tantrum with Hull’s David Meyler last year was Ali vs Foreman compared to Pearson and McArthur’s glorious non-event of a scuffle. The incident bore closer relation to the puppet sex scene from Team America or a homoerotic FIFA glitch than it did a plausible set-to.

The FA, who have taken no further action on the incident, seem to concur.

Pardew vs Meyler: Rumble i the Humber

Pardew vs Meyler: Rumble in the Humber

Why then, is the incident still pervading through the footballing sphere four days later?

Well chiefly, because Pearson made it an issue.

In a baffling post-game interview on Match of the Day, rather than laugh the incident off, the manager decided being needlessly vague and pigheadedly non-committal would be his weapons of choice. Additionally, he ended his verbal hara-kiri with the disconcerting non sequitur ‘I’m more than capable of looking after myself’ like an ex-marine trying to excuse away the forty kilos of Semtex sitting in his garden shed.

The transcipt of the exchange is below and can be watched on the video atop the page. Note that the interviewer asks his questions with good-humoured jest rather than an accusatory tone, making the aberrant nature of Pearson’s responses even more puzzling.

Interviewer: There was a bit of a collision in the second half with James McArthur. What was that all about?

Pearson: No idea, didn’t see it coming. If I’d have seen it coming I’d have moved out of the way. But…ummm….

Interviewer: Was it a friendly grab of him? You seemed happy, but your reactions looked like you were a little bit annoyed with him?

Pearson: Umm. It was … okay. Don’t worry about that. If there’s anything to say I’ll say it. Ummm. And, erm… I’m more than capable of looking after myself, there’s no doubt about that.

Pearson’s taciturn and armoured answers led to the question of whether the City manager’s touchline grappling had indeed been meant as some sort of retaliatory warning to McArthur with Pearson having seemingly deemed the Scotsman’s (clearly unavoidable) slip a deliberate attack on his person.

Just like that a non-issue had become an issue.

The BBC’s punditry team were quick to devour his reaction like a pack of hungry hyenas jumping upon a fallen gazelle. (An understandable response given that juicy meat is often hard to come by at the lower end of MOTD‘s running order where the skeletally-framed Sunderland and Aston Villa roam listlessly through the Pride Lands, inspiring mass indifference).

Gary Lineker called Pearson’s reaction a ‘bizarre piece of behaviour’, Jermaine Jenas talked of Pearson’s ‘shocking’ post-match reaction and Danny Murphy speculated the incident could stem from Leicester’s failed attempts to sign McArthur during the summer. Whether that particular theory was true or not was immaterial, it hung in the air appealingly, inviting viewers to draw their own conclusions.

The next few days would not be kind to Leicester City’s manager.


Jenas: Thoroughly shocked.


Sunday brought with it a litany of rumours that Pearson’s actions (combined with a poor run of league form) had led to his hasty dismissal by Leicester’s board. The speculation was a fire that The Foxes’ Thai owners took four long hours to attempt to put out but when the smoke cleared, Pearson remained.

It was somewhat of an anticlimax given the fevered speculation, but luckily enough for newshounds everywhere, Pearson did his best to exacerbate the situation in his press-meeting a day later.


His Monday press-conference was understandably embittered, consisting of equal parts stubborn defiance, the castigation of those he deemed responsible for Sunday’s rumours and an outright refusal to acknowledge he had ever been on the precipice of unemployment.

Match of the Day bore the brunt of his indignation as Pearson stated that ‘It is not helpful when the three fountains of knowledge on Match of the Day make a mountain of a molehill’, before making a sly dig at the Murphy and Lineker’s supposed tax indiscretions.

Lineker bit back via his Twitter persona (aka ‘Twitter Gary’, a totally different breed to the decidedly cosier ‘TV Gary’) stating:

If I was [a fountain of knowledge] I’d tell you that he was sacked by one of the owners’ family and reinstated by another, but then I’m not.

Pearson had accidentally entered a war of attrition with a national treasure and his own prideful ruminations in the press conference were not helping him. Highlights included lines such as:

“Any mistakes that I make are very honest ones”


“I would choose not to handle it in the same way but certainly no apology [is due]”

Suddenly people began to question the formerly well-regarded stout and steely head coach’s credentials. Was the Englishman’s rational and unshakable persona a sign of a good, honest manager or merely a smokescreen behind which Pearson’s toxic immutability and obstinacy could hide?

‘He did swear at that supporter earlier in the season’, you can hear someone whisper, ‘if that doesn’t make him a wrong’un, I don’t know what does.’

Had we been Malky Mackayed once more? That’s he of ‘gay snakes’ and ‘bounce on her falsies’ fame, whose war against tyrannical control freak Vincent Tan we all so eagerly and naively made our own.


‘We believed in you Malky! We gave your our heart!’

No, this situation is not ‘one of them’.

Pearson is a fine manager who should be admired for his achievements.

His team’s ascent to the top flight was masterfully handled by the Englishman and the diet of hard work and humility he has drip-fed into his squad makes Leicester City an always affable prospect (perhaps ironically given Pearson’s behaviour of the last few days).

While arguably deprived of the necessary quality to succeed in the Premier League, The Foxes are yet to find themselves on the tail end of a hiding which speaks to the pride and self-belief flowing through the King Power Stadium. (Incidentally, it is rare to find any 20th placed team who haven’t experienced a thrashing at this juncture; on this date in 2014 eventual Premier League wooden spoonists Cardiff had already lost four games by a 3 goal margin, then-bottom club Fulham had lost seven, Leicester have currently lost no game by more than 2 goals).

His stubborn refusal to be swayed by the media no matter the situation (whether a 5-3 comeback victory over Manchester United or a series of dour results against similarly-abled teams) is to his credit and yet it is this seeming mistrust and his refusal to align with the expected norms that has ultimately cost him. His recent acknowledgement that he phoned McArthur to apologise comes across as him clumsily pushing the stable door to, after frequently denying the horse had ever bolted.

Pearson has not stopped being a fine manager but he has lost some of the good will bestowed upon him by neutrals and the media alike, and in the Premier League where the manager merry-go-round is forever turning that may prove costly in the coming months.

In any event though, there’s no need to worry; Pearson is more than capable of looking after himself.

One thought on “Nigel’s Fury: With one moment of lunacy has Pearson destroyed a hard-earned reputation?

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