Watford are preparing to face Brighton this weekend with a real fighting chance at Premier League survival, and a lot of that is down to Nigel Pearson.
When the manager took over from Quique Sánchez Flores on December 6, the Hornets were bottom of the league with just eight points from 15 games, seven adrift of safety.
Fast forward two months and they can climb out of the bottom three with victory at the Amex Stadium.
‘Fighting’ is the operative word in that first sentence: Pearson has not been afraid of stepping into battle in the past, and the energy of these encounters has helped propel his new side up the table.
Remember when Nigel Pearson tried to strangle James McArthur for absolutely no reason whatsoever?pic.twitter.com/RQ1i0Ap6bw
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) May 24, 2019
Nigel Pearson vs James McArthur
A relegation battle can provoke strange behaviour in a person, and we should remember this season isn’t the first time Pearson has been involved in such a situation.
In a perilous situation, it’s good to give the impression you have things firmly in your control, but he took that a bit too literally by planting his arms around the neck of Crystal Palace midfielder McArthur during a 1-0 defeat which left Pearson’s Leicester rooted to the bottom of the table.
It was a very “just joking… or am I?” situation, with the jovial smile on the manager’s face betraying the fact that, well, he was only a step or two away from choking a man on a Premier League football pitch.
Nigel Pearson vs Mel Morris
It’s easy to forget, given how memorable his spell at Leicester ended up being, but Pearson has had other jobs since leaving the King Power Stadium.
One of those jobs was at Derby County, but he lasted just 14 games before a bust-up with chairman Mel Morris brought his time at Pride Park to a premature end.
Results weren’t great, but that wasn’t the main factor in things going south – after all, when Pearson falls out with someone there are no half-measures involved.
In Pearson’s defence, he didn’t take kindly to the use of drones on the training ground (what is it about Derby County and ‘spying’ narratives?). However, reports using phrases like “had to be restrained” don’t reflect brilliantly on him.
Nigel Pearson vs Wild Dogs
You read that right. Nigel Pearson once fought off wild dogs as they attempted to claw at his throat, and it wasn’t even a tortured metaphor.
“What they do is that one goes for you and the others [circle] around until one of them can bring you down – what they essentially do is rip the throat out,” Pearson recalled, referring to his encounter with a pack of wild dogs in the Carpathian mountains and not his own encounter with James McArthur.
It’s easy to get the two confused, in fairness.
Nigel Pearson vs That One Leicester Fan
The 2014-15 was a very eventful one in the world of Nigel Pearson. Indeed, enough happened to make us wonder whether things were exactly the same when he took charge of Leicester in the Championship, with the only difference being that fewer people were paying attention.
In addition to the McArthur incident and his battles with the press (more on that later), the Foxes boss was caught on camera appearing to tell a fan of his own team to “f**k off and die”. Extremely normal behaviour, I think we can all agree. The definition of ‘having a normal one,’ in fact.
Pearson refused to apologise to the fan – well, to be more specific, he said “there won’t be any apology”, as if the matter settled itself and was never in his hands. It’s a power move, if you ask us.
Nigel Pearson vs the English Language
“I think you must have been either head in the clouds or away on holiday or reporting on a different team because if you don’t know the answer to that question… your question is absolutely unbelievable… the fact you do not understand where I am coming from.
“If you don’t know the answer to that question, then I think you are an ostrich. Your head must be in the sand. Is your head in the sand? Are you flexible enough to get your head in the sand? My suspicion would be ‘no’.”
This was a response to journalist Ian Baker’s question, “what criticism are you talking about?”, and is a great lesson in why it makes sense to keep your questions open-ended enough to provoke something like this.
Does Pearson’s response make sense? Grammatically, it almost holds up. Spiritually, though, it stretches the English language and the boundaries between idiom and reality.
Inevitably, Pearson had no reason to clarify his baffling comments. Also inevitably, things worked out in his favour, with Leicester taking 10 points from the four games which followed the ostrich speech to stay in the Premier League.
Pearson always wins.
As long as you ignore him getting sacked two months later.