Nigel Pearson would be a good fit for Aston Villa

Nigel Pearson is firm bookies favourite to be Manager of Aston Villa for the start of next season.

It would appear that news of Remi Garde’s dismissal from Aston Villa is imminent. As relegation looms ever closer for the former Champion of Europe, the new look Aston Villa board have taken decisive action to re-build for the Championship next season. Villa’s new football board of Mervyn King, David Bernstein and Brian Little have taken part in a root and branch inquiry into football affairs at Bodymore Heath, and believe that a parting of the ways is essential for all parties. Pearson is believed to be the club’s number one choice.

Where it went wrong for Garde

Garde has won just three of his 23 games in charge of the club and Villa’s loss at Swansea on Sunday was their sixth consecutive defeat and Garde’s increasingly gloomy body lanaguage during games and in press conferences have deeply concerned the Villa board.

The 49 year old former Lyon boss always seemed a left field apointment and too big a risk for a club fighting relegation. He had never Managed in England before and had left his previous role at Lyon due to the pressures of the job. Former Villa CEO Tom Fox — who recently parted company with the club as part of the board’s on-going investigations — was strongly behind the appointment of Garde due to his Arsenal connections and belief that the Frenchman could work much more harmoniously than Tim Sherwood with Villa’s transfer committee of Fox, Paddy Reilly and Sporting Director Hendrik Almstadt (who was also recently dismissed by the new Board). Garde was advised by Gerard Houllier and Arsène Wenger to take the job and he was appointed as Tim Sherwood’s successor in early November with a clear objective to keep the club in the Premier League at all costs.

Garde was the very opposite of the man he replaced Tim Sherwood. Where Sherwood had acted like an excited schoolboy on the touchline and quipped jokes in press conferences, Garde was calm, reasoned and intelligent. Garde was decisive in the way he handled Jack Grealish early in his Aston Villa reign which led to praise from Villa fans. Grealish was caught on video partying at a nightclub late on Saturday night just hours after the 4–0 defeat by Everton and was sent to train with the club’s development squad as punishment. But Grealish — who had a close relationship with Tim Sherwood — never recovered and has spent a hugely disappointing campaign either injured or woefully off-form. It’s just one of a number of things that Garde has had to deal with.

Garde was hampered from the start and failed in his efforts to bring his trusted assistants Bruno Genesio and Gerald Baticle to Villa Park with him. Instead he brought in coach Reginald Ray and fitness coach Robert Duverne returned, after working with Gérard Houllier at a previous spell with the club.

Deterioration of key relationships

Garde’s relationship with several players has deteriorated badly and he told friends within the game — including former Villa winger David Ginola — that he has become increasingly exasperated by the lack of fight within the dressing room for a relegation battle. Garde acted with dignity throughout his time at Villa Park and seemed a thoroughly decent man who wanted to succeed in the English game. Despite the shocking results and performances, it is hard not to have at least some sympathy with Remi Garde. He was clearly mis-sold the Villa job by Lerner and Fox and in giving the Frenchman no funds to sign a single player during the January window, they gave their appointment no confidence or tools to help him.

But for all the difficulties Garde faced, I’m struggling to find any tangible improvements from the side that started the season so badly under Tim Sherwood. There were little hints of a more patient passing game with some neat movement, but ultimately the players were not good enough to play this kind of football. Defensively, Villa were a shambles and there seemed to be little in terms of a progressive football identity or bravery in putting things right. The dressing room is just as divisive and toxic now as it was when Garde took over and his behaviour hasn’t always helped matters. There was a lack of communication with the players during the week and Garde’s man-management and motivational skills seemed to be extremely limited. In addition, Garde’s defeatist demeanour and body language began to cause major concerns in the Villa boardroom. The players knew that he didn’t believe in them and they in turn began to doubt him and his training methods. As the once fresh faced Garde grew greyer and greyer, his team grew worse.

Nigel Pearson can rebuild Villa just like Graham Taylor did in 1987

There is an interesting blog post I saw on the Guardian’s website which details the last time Aston Villa were relegated in the 1986–87 campaign. You can read it here —

What is clear after reading that report is that Villa suffer very similar internal problems to the situation they faced in 1987. The club is spineless and lacking leaders, direction, organisation and collective spirit. Graham Taylor arrived and called the club a “shambles”. It was a shocking truth to Villa fans who has experienced European Cup success just five years earlier. Taylor set about changing the entire ethos of the club, selling people who he felt weren’t pulling their weight and also remving those who he considered to be disruptive in the dressing room. Taylor created a team in his own image, devoid of superstars and full of players who would run through brick walls for the Villa cause.

Nigel Pearson could do a similar job and will not be short of the energy, personality and desire needed to make the necessary changes and re-build Aston Villa. Here is what he could bring to the role:

(1) Massive respect from his players

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 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.

He’s a man who wants his next job to be at a club he can re-build from scratch and that is what is needed at Aston Villa.

(2) Discipline and fitness

Villa have had major player-power and dressing room unrest going back many years. Not even Roy Keane could fix it. I would say that this is the number one footballing problem that needs to be sorted out as nothing can be achived with unprofessionalism and poor standards. It’s clear that some players have not been putting enough effort into either training or games (step forward Mr Agbonlahor and chums) and have been poor role models for Villa’s Academy and youngsters. There is a drinking culture at the club that Pearson will relish sorting out — and he will be strong enough to deal with this where others have failed.

Pearson will rid Villa Park of the wasters and build a stronger dressing room with massive unity and togetherness. He will protect and look after them and in return, they will want to play for him. Villa have not had that since Martin O’Neill’s era. 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 they are) his side were.Villa have looked very unfit at times this season and seem to have very little mental strength, both individually and as a collective unit. Pearson will put this right.

(3) Championship experience

Nobody at Aston Villa takes any pleasure at the thought of playing Championship football next season but realism is needed. Pearson would be a pragmatic and sensible appointment and he has — recent — experience of getting out of the Championship and knows what it entails to be successful in that league. That is very important as Villa can’t afford to take any more silly gambles.

(4) Self Belief and motivational skills

There is a fine line between self belief and arrogance (and I know Pearson crosses it at times) but I think Pearson’s big personality combined with his confident demeanour will be good for Villa. Nobody minds a bit of swagger when the team is winning and he learnt from a Villa legend of course (Pearson was hailed “The best captain I ever had” by former Sheffield Wednesday boss Ron Atkinson).

(5) He deserves some credit for Leicester’s rise

I’m a huge fan of Claudio Ranieri and all that he has achieved this season with the foxes. I do think that Pearson deserves, at least some credit, for their dramatic rise. Pearson watched Jamie Vardy a number of times and Vardy said that Pearson’s belief in him was he main reason in why he signed for the club from Fleetwood in 2012..Pearson clearly has an eye for a player and isn’t afraid to drop down leagues to find gems.

(6) He will steady the ship quickly and alter standards

If Pearson became the next Villa Manager he would need to stabilise the club quickly to ensure it doesn’t keep falling. Standards will alter dramatically. Pearson will look to sign players who are both good enough for the championship, but also strong enough to handle the pressure of playing for Aston Villa, and he will demand 100% each and every day — in training and in matches. His standards will be high, just as they should be. Anybody who fails to step up to the challenge will be moved on sharpish. He will also sign players who can deliver in the short and longer term.

Pearson’s short break out of the game will mean he will be fresh and bursting to get back into Management and may feel he has a point to prove in the game. Aged just 52, Pearson will feel that his best years are ahead of him in Management.

The Negatives about Nigel Pearson

Mention the name Nigel Pearson to football fans and many will mention “ostrichgate” — a footballing YouTube moment that will live forever in the memory alongside Delia Smith’s “Let’s be having ya” rant. Here is a timeline of the controversy that surrounded Pearson last season:

December 2, 2014

Pearson tells a Leicester fan to “fuck off and die” after 3–1 home defeat by Liverpool. He is fined £10,000 for the incident by the Football Association and handed a one-match touchline ban.

He said at the time “Sometimes in the heat of the moment these things happen but there certainly wont be any apology”.

February 7, 2015

Pearson grabs Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur on the touchline before refusing to let go of his shirt. The incident led to a falling out with Gary Linkear after Pearson accused Match of the day pundits of making too much of the McArthur incident. But Linekar later supported Pearson when the Leicester boss was sacked by saying: “ I’ve had a few little squabbles with Nigel, he can be quite difficult but do we all think Clough or Fergison were wonderful guys all the time? You don’t have to be a lovely guy to be a good Manager. He did a brilliant job — twice — at Leicester”

April 29th, 2015

Pearson calls journalist Ian Baker an “ostrich” during strange rant at press conference. The comments makes front and back page headlines.

April 30, 2015

Pearson gives a public apology to Baker and becomes caught up in a heated exchange with BBC’s Pat Murphy who calls him a “bully” and “paranoid” before querying if he had ever considered taking anger management courses.

May 31, 2015

Leicester launch an investigation after shocking footage emerges of three of the club’s players — including manager Pearson’s son James — taking part in an orgy while on on a goodwill tour in Bangkok.

June 17, 2015

Leicester sack the three players involved, including James.

June 30, 2015

Leicester sack Pearson as manager, with the club, stating “fundamental differences in perspective exist between us”.


There are some doubts about Pearson’s temperament following the incidents above. The pressure at Villa Park will be much more intense than Pearson dealt with at Leicester. The West Midlands press aren’t always the easiest to deal with.

Pearson will not be able to take his trusted assistants Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh with him to Villa Park. Shakespeare and Walsh have signed two year extensions to their Leicester contract. This will trouble Villa fans who have seen the previous two Managers — Tim Sherwood and Remi Garde — unable to bring their prefered coaching staff with them.

But it is clear that the positives outweigh the negatives and Pearson seems the right fit for Villa at this current time.

The other contenders for the job:

Chris Coleman is the latest name to be linked to the job. Wales’ qualification for the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament meant that Coleman had led Wales to their first tournament qualification since 1958. He hasn’t worked in club management in England since being sacked by Coventry City in 2010 after a 19th placed finish.

Garry Monk was once touted as a potential successor to Arsène Wenger. Monk guided Swansea to 8th position with a record points tally in 2014–15 but Swansea struggled the following season and Monk was sacked after a run of just one win in 11 matches.

Steve Bruce must be quite used to Villa fans chanting “Sit down Potato Head” at him. The former Birmingham City boss would be a more divisive appointment than Nigel Pearson, but he is worthy of close consideration. Bruce would bring many years of experience with him to Villa Park and has experience of rebuilding a team on the cheap. But if Hull City were promoted to the Premier League, would Bruce want the hassle of the Villa job at this stage of his career?

David Moyles is the current fans favourite to become the next Villa manager — just as he was when Tim Sherwood was sacked in October 2015. This is due to the excellent job Moyles did at Everton but the Scotsman has struggled badly in his previous two jobs at Manchester United and Real Sociedad.

Moyles is only 52 and Aston Villa could offer him the perfect chance to rebuild his reputation in the game. It is believed that Moyles and Villa owner Randy Lerner get on very well, and that Villa might the be the only club outside the top flight who Moyles would consider Managing. But he would need a lot of assurances that he would backed by Lerner.

objective to keep the club in the Premier League at all costs.

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