On May 15, 2004, the Invincibles of Arsenal brushed aside a plucky, but in truth, not good enough Micky Adams Leicester team, and the inevitable questions that relegation ask began.
The chief one asked was how long? And normally in these instances a doom monger will pipe in with comments like “it could be 10 years before we get back.” Well, all hail the doom monger!
Many have tried and failed. Micky Adams, Craig Levein, Rob Kelly, Martin Allen, Ian Holloway, Paolo Sousa and Sven Goran Eriksson. The answer was obviously a manager that was the only one who had a Leicester City promotion to his name in the last decade. After his League One triumph of 2009 he sailed straight into the play-offs only for Cardiff to break his and Leicester’s hearts.
With a sale to mysterious Thai owners on the cards Nigel Pearson was apparently a jilted lover with Paolo Sousa given the job. Off to Hull he went only to return at the Thai owners request in late 2011. He finished the season weakly but still in the top half. The following season seemed to be more solid until a second half season collapse saw us scrape into the top six only for Watford to break hearts this time. Numerous pundits and in truth most Leicester fans were expecting that to be Pearson’s last game in charge. Only it wasn’t.
Pearson and his Leicester City squad have been simply outstanding this season, with 27 wins from 40 league outings this season. Currently they are on a 21 game unbeaten run, of which 16 of those have been victories. The football has been scintillating right throughout the squad with quick intricate passing and an incisive, explosive counter attack.
The attitude from the players has been exemplary as their reaction to the Watford defeat last season spurring them on with every point. The squad also push each other on, as when injuries and suspensions occur their deputies outperform them and end up being first choice with Wasilewski, Schlupp and Mahrez profiting from Moore, Konchesky and Dyer’s absences.
When all the outfield players underperform against a tactically astute Yeovil Town, Schmeichel the second, rises like a salmon to inspire an equaliser wrongly given to the alert Chris Wood. The squad has also profited from the intelligence and experience of Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Kevin Phillips and Dean Hammond. As well as this quality we are blessed with captain fantastic Wes Morgan, the now impenetrable midfield partnership of Drinkwater and James.
Add this to Vardy’s rise and Nugent’s consistency and we’re only lacking a French wizard who finished last season in tears and returned this season with a maturity to his ability. Oh wait; we’re covered there as well with Anthony Knockaert.
Nigel Pearson has spent the last two-and-a-half-years crafting and sculpting this squad. Gone are the frustrating and the disruptive likes of Matt Mills, Jermaine Beckford and Neil Danns. We now have a squad of players playing for each other who actually like other. Several of them all met up on Saturday to watch Jeff Stelling and the Soccer Saturday team map out the drama.
As Derby faultered and the strangely unsackable Harry Redknapp‘s QPR went down at Bournemouth, promotion after 10 years was confirmed. The players delight is emblazoned on social media for all to see as they screamed like girls and hugged each other en masse. This is a team that is in it together. Yes there has been money spent on this squad but it would be churlish and disrespectful to Nigel Pearson to label them as a team simply assembled with many “pound notes” (Sean Dyche I’m looking at you).
Pearson has had a careful scouting process coupled with a progressive coaching policy which has seen a move to a style of play more suited to success in a higher division. Pearson is also fully aware of the word “team” as he treats his coaching staff as equals and encourages debate. He is also guarded with the media but candid recognising that taking on the media in mini crusades serves nothing but his own ego (hello to Billy Davies).
What the future and the next 10 years holds can be debated another day, but with a season hopefully heading towards the league title and a 100+ points tally only an idiot or someone who hasn’t watched Leicester this season would proclaim that we’re certainties to come straight back down. Nigel Pearson and Leicester City have quite simply been the best in the Championship this season – so far.
Written by Damon Carter, We Are Going Up’s Leicester City blogger
Damon tweets at @dimski