David Moyes has ruled himself out of the running for the vacant manager’s role at Aston Villa. It is believed that Moyes contacted the club himself to say that he would not be taking on the challenge at Villa Park. This leaves Nigel Pearson and Roberto Di Matteo looking the most obvious candidates for the job. In this article, I make my case for offering the job to former Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson.
The news that Pearson could be on the verge of becoming manager has been met with a very subdued reaction from many Villa fans. David Moyes has topped all fan polls since Remi Garde departed but I’ve always been firmly behind Pearson being offered the job.
Villa are in a far worse state now than they were when relegated in the 1980’s but there are some striking similarities. Graham Taylor arrived in 1987 with the impact of a Tornado and ripped into the squad from day one. He also didn’t mince his words and called Villa a “shambles”. Villa need someone who is going to be strong and brave enough to rebuild the club like Taylor did in 1987. As much as I admire David Moyes and think he did a great job at Everton, I think that Pearson looks the more hungry and motivated man to take up the challenge.
One of Nigel Pearson’s biggest strengths is his ability to evoke incredible loyalty from his players. Ask the vast majority of Leicester players who played under Nigel Pearson at the club and they all say that they all loved working with him. Many say he is a very warm person, which is at odds with his public persona.
In the words of Kasper Schmeichel:
“Everyone has got to know that the Nigel Pearson they see and the Nigel Pearson we see are two very different people. He is a charismatic guy. A born leader. He has a great sense of humour and an energy about him that transmits to the lads. He is very infectious with his enthusiasm for football. He cares. He cares deeply not just about football but about his players on and off the pitch – how their lives are going. It means a lot to players when you have a manager who cares so deeply about you as an individual and not just as a player.”
Pearson also fancies a big challenge. A club that needs re-building and he can grow. Villa fit the bill!
When Nigel Pearson returned to Leicester City in November 2011, he found a set of players that were perhaps too comfortable and unmotivated. There was a feeling that some members of the squad were more interested in joining Leicester City for the money rather than wanting to be successful. Sound familiar? The likes of Matt Mills, Neil Danns, and Jermaine Beckford were moved on and shrewd replacements found. Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater, £1m pound man Jamie Vardy, Anthony Knockaert, Matty James and Richie de Laet arrived in three superb transfer windows for Pearson. The signing of Vardy in particular has to be one of the most astute in recent history (and to think Villa fans turned their nose up at the mere suggestion of signing Vardy in the summer).
Discipline and fitness
Villa have had major player-power issues going back years now. I would say that this is the number one footballing problem that needs to be addressed by a new manager. There are too many players who are content to pick up their high wages without having tried their best and that is not acceptable. It’s clear that some players (step forward Gabby Agbonlahor, Brad Guzan, Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards and Charles N’Zogbia) have been very poor role models for Villa’s young players. The attitude within BMH has been toxic and Pearson will relish sorting it out, and he has the experience, courage and strength to be able to do this.
Pearson will rid Villa Park of the wasters and build a stronger dressing room with massive unity and togetherness. At Leicester, he made it a priority to build a dressing room full of good honest pros and created a togetherness that every successful side needs. He will protect and look after his players and in return, they will want to play for him. Villa have not had that level of spirit and unity for a very long time. They badly need it now.
Leicester’s amazing survival last season – winning seven of the final nine games – shows just how fit (mentally and physically) his side were. Villa have been physically and mentally weak. Pearson will put this right. He will not tolerate slackers.
I’m also led to believe that Pearson’s persona in the public couldn’t be any more different to his private persona. He may be prickly and confrontational in his dealings with the press, but he’s had a season out of football and I hope he’s used some of that time to reflect on some of his actions from a year ago. His reputation for being a “bully” doesn’t ring true in the Leicester City dressing room. His man-management skills were extraordinary and when players were in trouble he would go the extra mile to help them.
Aston Villa need a man who is decisive, can make shrewd signings, knows the Championship, can rebuild the entire squad, create a positive atmosphere in the dressing room, and produce winning football. Pearson ticks all the boxes for me.
By Jamie Hendrie