Nigel Pearson was right to defend his players

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If you haven’t heard about ‘Ostrichgate’ you must have had your head buried in the sand.

Leicester boss Nigel Pearson launched a bizarre rant at a journalist last week following his side’s 3-1 defeat at home to league leaders Chelsea.

In the outburst he accused local newspaper representative Ian Baker of being an ‘ostrich’ after the reporter questioned him about specific criticisms the Foxes have faced from media sources this season.

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Pearson has received a large portion of criticism across social media and felt the need to apologise to Baker in his next press conference, but was the Leicester man being clever or did he overstep the mark?

One thing is for sure, Pearson did go too far when confronting Baker, a fact the 51-year old acknowledged when addressing him. The belittling nature in which Pearson spoke to Baker was unprofessional at best but his reasons for flying off the handle are much more complex than just “I don’t like losing."

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The former Sheffield Wednesday captain is a straight talking man, likened to Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in many ways and has shown this season he is not afraid to voice his opinion when pushed to.

Besides calling referee Mike Dean “arrogant” following his side’s 4-3 loss away at Tottenham in March, Pearson has been involved in an argument with a fan, a touchline altercation with Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur and another outburst with a journalist, that time swearing on microphone after Leicester’s 0-0 draw at home to Hull City.

His record with the press then is not a flattering one, but this is nothing new to Pearson as many Leicester fans will know.

Pearson is highly protective of his players and as a manager that is an attribute in which many share at the top of the game. Support for the Leicester manager has been evident throughout the season from a host of fellow Premier League managers for that exact reason.

Back in 2013 following Leicester’s heart-breaking defeat to Watford in the Championship play-offs, Pearson took his players aside and had a quiet summer away from the media spotlight. Resultantly, the following season, the Foxes stormed the way to the Championship title and secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 10 years.

This defence of his players was a front running reason in defining why Leicester bounced back from tragedy so quickly and so effectively.

Charge sheet

During Leicester’s 3-1 defeat at home to Liverpool in December, Pearson had an altercation with a fan after the fan in question accused Leicester’s players of not trying hard enough.

Pearson reacted angrily swearing at the fan telling him to “**** off and die”, an incident which unfortunately for the manager was caught on tape and broadcast across social media.

As once again, Pearson may have overstepped the mark, his defence of his players was admirable and although seemingly unprofessional, he had a right to defend them given the performances the club had been putting in despite unflattering results.

BBC Radio Leicester journalist, Ian Stringer had a good working relationship with Pearson up until this season but he himself had an altercation with the Foxes manager and is now banned from interviewing him for the foreseeable future.

Pearson has in many ways had reason for his actions in the media whether it be protecting his players from the media spotlight or adverse reactions to poor questioning from reporters.

The outburst against Baker appears to be a mixture of both, creating a distraction from his players after a potentially damaging defeat against Chelsea, and poor wording of a question set out by the journalist.

Had Pearson left the rant at the ‘Ostrich’ stage, it would have been deemed as clever man management, Mourinho-esque in nature, but he pushed it past the point of professional with belittling Baker in front of his colleagues.

Line of questioning

However, the line of questioning as to criticisms of Leicester players this season was poorly worded at best. From a man Pearson pointed out as having sat in on numerous press conferences at the King Power Stadium this season, Baker appeared to be pushing Pearson for a reaction, however innocently his intentions may have been.

In short, the pressures of losing the game, amid clever media tactics from Pearson and misunderstanding the question may have caused Pearson’s adverse reaction to Baker’s line of approach. The apology on Thursday should have been the end of the matter but what followed was perhaps the worst piece of journalism that will be seen in the public eye for some time.

A reporter's job is to push and probe on questions which no other would dare to ask. As the middle man between the professional sporting world and the public, journalists must ask difficult questions pushing the boundaries up to the line, but never crossing the line.

Ian Stringer pushed the boundaries with Pearson but never once crossed the line. Pearson didn’t like the boundaries he was being pushed to so revoked Stringer’s right to ask questions. Ian Baker asked a question in a poorly worded manner which pushed Pearson for a response, Pearson realised he stepped too far and apologised. Good journalism.

But last Thursday afternoon the BBC’s Pat Murphy launched an incredible seven-minute barrage at the Leicester manager in an obvious attempt to provoke a reaction.

In context, Stringer and Baker have both pushed up to and not crossed the line of professionalism. Pat Murphy leapt over the line in the back of a fighter jet.

The bombardment on Pearson’s character started out as a defence of Baker but as Pearson remained calm his line of questioning appeared to become more desperate as the confrontation continued.

Poor journalism?

Not once did Murphy ask about the Newcastle game, instead choosing to focus on whether Pearson felt he was a “bully”, bringing a bad name to Leicester City and whether he required “anger management”.

The barrage on Pearson’s persona led yo similarities with Jeremy Paxman’s alienation of Ed Miliband on Channel Four’s broadcasting of the Election Debate.

An attack which became unprofessional in standing and one which refracted from the reason why the interview was held and the original point.

In essence, Murphy appeared to be like a child in an aquarium, poking a dolphin with a stick trying to make it do tricks.

It is then fully testament to Pearson’s character that he remained calm throughout and failed to react once. A fusillade designed to make Pearson look bad, backfiring and making Murphy appear foolish.

Pearson is not an animal. His tactics with the media have on the most part this season been shrewd, professionally executed at protecting and defending his players from criticism and more importantly honest.

The outburst with Baker on Wednesday night wasn’t without reason but he did overstep the mark. The resulting apology should have been the end of the matter.

Pat Murphy’s line of questioning was poor journalism. A measly attempt to provoke a reaction from a reputable, honest football manager and an attempt in which the BBC have not covered themselves in glory.

Pearson apologised for pushing the boundaries too far, will Pat?

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