On the face of it, what a daft decision by the owners of Leicester City to sack Nigel Pearson. I say 'on the face of it' because I'm very much aware that there is always two sides to any story and we don't have all the facts yet. Even so.....
I disagree with some of my colleagues in the Press when they describe Leicester's PL survival last season as 'one of the great escapes'. For me, it was 'the greatest'.
It has to be. Pearson's team were bottom for 140 days consecutively. They were bottom at Xmas (I hate this stat) but got out of trouble. They got out of trouble with an extra-ordinary run Who called it? No-one. I'm arguably Pearson's biggest fan, but I have to admit I'd even given up on them.
It WAS the greatest escape ever. And it was very evident that Pearson's players appeared happy to run through brick walls for him. There was a unity and belief about them that you rarely see when a team is at the bottom end scrapping for their lives. Gordon Strachan inspired it at Coventry year after year, but there aren't too many other examples I can think of.
I hear people say Pearson is a complicated character. No he's not. He got himself in trouble time and again last season for the same reason every time. A loyalty to his players. He had a steadfast belief in them and they knew it. He never gave up on them. Never once publicly criticised them. The payback was evident come the end of the season.
Nigel calls it how it is. Some might not like it, but for me it makes a refreshing change. There are too many operating (some who coveted Pearson's job during his time at Leicester) who would sh** a corkscrew if they swallowed a nail.
Here's one very good example of Pearson's honesty I'll never forget. Middlesbrough had just been relegated at Leeds. Nick Collins, Sky reporter, a brilliant operator, but this wasn't his finest hour, posed this question to big Nige, their skipper, in the tunnel 'Nigel, how do you feel?'. Now, given the circumstances, how might you have answered that question? Correct! This was his response 'Fucking hell Nick, how do you think I feel?' - and we were 'live'!!!! There was meltdown. All I can remember is chuckling and thinking 'good on you big man'. How the hell was he supposed to react to a question like that?
He approached every pre and post match inquisition the same way last season - honest, forthright and clear. He was the immovable object.
Leicester have made a huge error of judgement in my opinion. Pearson will be back but so might Leicester next season - in The Championship.
And before I close - well done Phil Neville. It's as though he read my blog last week on the 'brain drain' out of football onto comfortable TV sofas.
The truth is slightly different. I've never hidden my admiration for Phil. I count him as a good mate. Coaching is something we spoke about often last season during his frequent trips to join us at beIN Sports in Qatar. He was well aware of my feelings on the subject before I went into print last week!
We spoke again last Friday when the story first surfaced. The deal wasn't actually done then, but it was certainly going to get done. Phil is one of this generations 'bright young things'. He's got coaching in his blood. Having endured a torrid 12 months at OT with David Moyes I think it's fair to say Phil needed a break. His year away has re-energised him and he's raring to go at Valencia. Good luck to him. If he fails, so be it, TV will be waiting to welcome him back. But he will have failed having had a go. He'll know what it's like to be in a hot seat and he'll be better able to judge/criticise and pass comment on others.
But I don't believe he will fail. He's a gritty individual with big bollocks. Living in Gary's shadow hadn't been easy, either as a player or a TV 'pundit'. Now he's casting a shadow of his own. It's time for his brother, and the other guys I mentioned in last week's article, to step out of the comfort zone and follow his example.