First Team 1 month ago

Pearson: “It's Important To Galvanise The Group”

By Kevin Affleck

Nigel Pearson was joined at training nice and early this morning by his trusted lieutenant Craig Shakespeare as the work begun to build on what he saw against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Pearson and Shakespeare, the former Leicester manager and England coach, were at Vicarage Road on Saturday for the goalless draw with the Eagles and teamed up at the training base in London Colney this morning to go over what they saw at Vicarage Road and start preparing for the game with Liverpool.

“I saw plenty of positive things [against Palace],” said Pearson. “I also saw things that didn’t surprise me. I think it’s about trying to give the players the freedom to go out and play. What I saw was players fighting to try and get back into form and there were some encouraging signs. I know we’ve not scored anywhere near enough goals so far, especially with the players we have available. I thought we caused Palace quite a few problems. We know we’ve got to be more clinical in terms of converting opportunities when they come along and the players are aware of that. I saw some good fighting qualities but I’m aware of what our problems are at the moment. It’s important at the moment to try and galvanise the group and we go into games with a very competitive spirit with the intention to do anything to win games.”

Pearson and Shakespeare worked together at West Bromwich Albion and Hull but their main body of work came during two spells at Leicester, particularly in 2014/15 when the Foxes stayed up despite being seven points from safety with only ten games left.

“When people ask me these types of questions [about how we did it] I think it’s too easy to look back at things like that and try to piece together what it might look like for other people,” said Pearson. “The reality is when you’re involved in something like that you sort of build momentum as it goes. It was an incredible feat but let’s not kid ourselves, you can’t expect that kind of thing to be the norm for teams in that position. I remember when I was Bryan Robson’s assistant at West Brom around 2004 and we were bottom at Christmas and we managed to stay up on the last day of the season by beating Portsmouth. The thing that strikes me with both of those of events – and I was at Carlisle, I forgot about that one – is the groups of players would be a collective.

“It doesn’t mean the players have to be best friends and get along with everybody, but when it comes to performing [they need] a clear idea of what they’re trying to do and they trust each other and rely on each other during games. You need a bit of luck, you need as much of it as you can but also you need to isolate everything that’s happening everywhere else. You can’t do a whole deal about what pressure is doing to other people because you need to win your own game to put a bit more on them. I’m loathe to talk in too much detail as to why things happen. You are not ever totally in control of all the circumstances but what you have to do is try to concentrate on the things you can affect yourselves. For us it’s about our own game, it’s our performances, it’s how we behave and the values we work to in and around the workplace every day. We’ve got to go out there and get our performances right for sure.”

Pearson has been part of escape acts at Carlisle, West Brom, Southampton and Leicester and each time it has been fuelled by a fear of what relegation and the ramifications of playing in the tier below would look like.

“My message as a football club that’s spent a long time out of the top flight is the journey a club makes in getting there and the sacrifices that are made to get into the Premier League to start with and the investment that goes with it,” he said. “We don’t want to give it up lightly.”

First Team 1 month ago

Smart On Pearson: “There’s A Bit Of The Great GT About Him”

By Kevin Affleck

Allan Smart believes Nigel Pearson is exactly the right man for the Watford job after observing how thew Hornets Head Coach operated when doing his coaching qualifications.

Pearson, 56, was a tutor on the A License at Lilleshall in the early noughties when Smart did his badge alongside Brendan Rodgers. Smart was impressed with Pearson's knowledge, tactical acumen and his delivery and has followed his career closely ever since.

“He was approachable, warm, took sessions, offered opinion, had good knowledge and really stimulated debate,” he said. “He came across as a really decent bloke but he has that fiery side that you need as a manager. There is a bit of the great GT about him. Players won't be stepping out of line, that's for sure.”

Pearson issued a really powerful speech to the playing and training ground staff on Sunday morning and plans to extract every lost drop of talent and energy out of this squad, making it more than the sum of its individual parts.

“He'll want 100 per cent effort for starters,” said Smart. “Look at what Duncan Ferguson did at Everton on Saturday. He showed you what you can do with a team when they are at full tilt. Fans want to see players putting effort in, giving everything and putting your foot in. Nigel's teams are well organised, structured but they also have a bit of creativity about them.”

Smart just missed Pearson at Carlisle. He left to join Watford in the same summer of 1998 that Pearson took over, a season that culminated in goalkeeper Jimmy Glass scoring an injury-time equaliser to keep Carlisle in the Football League.

“I know that dressing room and they all spoke really well of him and the job he did there,” said Smart. “What he did there was against the odds.”

It's a familiar theme, really. Pearson was Bryan Robson's assistant when West Brom stayed up on the final day of 2004/05; he kept Southampton up in 2007/08, again on the final day, while Leicester won seven and drew one of their final nine games in 2014/15 to beat the drop.

“I feel the biggest thing he did was get those Leicester players off the floor from Play-Off Semi-Final defeats against Cardiff and Watford to then get them promoted,” said Smart. “I remember one of the players [Yann Kermorgant] tried to dink a penalty against Cardiff and then there was that Deeney goal against Watford, but he still managed to keep his dignity when he could have gone mad and eventually got them up. That must have been a big psychological task and he needed to show a lot of leadership then, which he has clearly got as Bryan Robson made him captain of his Middlesbrough team and you don't get a better reference than that.”