Last season we witnessed a great escape from a team that was rooted to the bottom of the table at Christmas and were still bottom with only seven games to go. Only two other teams had successfully survived in the Premier League having been bottom at Christmas: West Brom (2004) and Sunderland (2014). The remarkable statistic that truly emphasises the scale of the achievement is that after 29 games, Leicester City only had 19 points. They ended the season in 14th place with an incredible 41 points.
This was a stunning turnaround from a fascinating team and an entertaining, and controversial manager. But as the end of the 2015-16 season is reaching its conclusion with what may be one of the biggest surprises in English footballing history, the manager who inspired the Leicester team to the great escape and who is still remembered fondly by Leicester fans, is still unemployed.
There have been rumours circulating recently that Nigel Pearson may begin a job at the end of the season with Aston Villa, who are almost mathematically down and ready to sack Rémi Garde. Pearson would be a good manager for a team in the Championship having previous experience in promotion battles and winning the league with Leicester back in 2014.
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Crucially though, Pearson has experience that would suit a club currently involved in a relegation battle, which is why it is appropriate to ask the question: why did Newcastle United not hire him?
Steve McClaren was the latest managerial casualty for the club, but there have been too many horrendous appointments since the relatively successful Kevin Keegan (the first time round) and Sir Bobby Robson (who was poorly treated by the club). Joe Kinnear, Alan Shearer, Kevin Keegan (the second coming) and John Carver have led the club into further disarray during their time with the club, while the more positive managerial appointments, Alan Pardew and his predecessor Chris Hughton, had been under immense pressure to make the team perform better when, realistically, both managers performed admirably considering the circumstances.
The recent appointment of Rafael Benitez is yet another strange decision from a club that is in crisis. Benitez does have an excellent record, winning La Liga and the UEFA Cup in 2004 with Valencia, and the Champions League (2005) and FA Cup (2006) with Liverpool. But Benitez is coming to a club that is not in contention to win anything and he does not have much positive experience with clubs who are in a relegation battle, having been relegated with former club CF Extremadura in 1999.
Newcastle players and fans needed someone who would instil confidence into a deflated city and it remains to be seen whether Benitez is the man who fits that mould. Coming out on top in a relegation scrap needs more than tactical intelligence, which Benitez does have. Teams fighting for their Premier League lives must also have inspiration, passion, fight, aggression and unity.
Nigel Pearson certainly proved to everyone that he possesses those managerial qualities to lift a team that was at rock-bottom, and he should not be forgotten for helping to lay the foundations for the current Leicester City team to reach such incredible heights this season under Claudio Ranieri.
Pearson has also been a part of the coaching staff at Newcastle in the past, taking charge of Newcastle on a temporary basis in 2007, after Glen Roeder, and 2008, after Sam Allardyce. He would have known the expectations of the well-supported club and could have given them as much - if not more - of a chance than Benitez, who has currently lost one and drawn one - leaving Newcastle three points away from safety with eight games to play.
If Newcastle do go down, then a managerial search will surely have to begin again, as it is more than likely that Benitez will walk away should that scenario occur. By that time, Pearson may well be starting a new job in the midlands.
Newcastle may have missed out on a manager who could have given them a great chance of staying up, but had they been relegated under Pearson anyway, then at least they would have a manager who has experience in the unforgiving league that is the Championship.
Pearson does carry with him some of the bizarre actions and statements from last season which, it is widely accepted, contributed to him losing his job at Leicester.
Regardless of how controversial he may have been in the past, he would surely have been a worthwhile and logical appointment for a club fighting for survival and preparing for the possibility of Championship football next season.
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