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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.

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I've been fascinated reading Nick Harris's top 50 most important people in P Lge history this week in The Mail on-line.

Harris is a fine investigative journalist whose work often inspires heated debate. This piece is no different.

I'm not leaving a note, as invited, in the comments section Nick, I'm offering an alternative and more accurate list! Without these guys you wouldn't have been compiling your 'top 50' because the P Lge would never have happened.

9 & 10. Martin Tyler/Andy Gray.

These two were the best commentary partnership there's ever been. I've never known a commentator put as much time and research into his work at Martin - or 'Voice' as we would call him. Their discipline was top class. Martin would call the game - Andy take first replay. They were like a top class strike partnership. They read each other beautifully. I agree with Harris - their work was 'era defining'.


Andy was the most difficult man I ever worked with. He didn't waste words - or his time on people he didn't like. We didn't speak for the first two years that we worked with each other! He was a brilliant operator. He was our Executive Producer and shaped our coverage. There was a quality control clause in the first deal - if we'd been poor the contract could've been terminated. Melvin made sure that didn't happen - now retired, he was a little genius.

6 & 7. Ken Bates/Ron Noades

Two colourful Chairmen from the early 90's. Noades, who owned Crystal Palace, brought together the 'smaller' clubs, without whom, it couldn't have happened. Bates, who I don't like - he remains a horrible bully - steadfastly refused to join the 'big boys' who wanted to keep all the power to themselves,  despite the fact that Chelsea were considered one of that group. To his credit, Bates was instrumental in ensuring it was one vote for each member of the original 22 clubs.

5. Alan Sugar.

One time Chairman of Spurs. There was some speculation that Sugar provided 'inside' information from the inaugural meeting of P Lge Chairman who were discussing TV proposals. His Amstrad company made set top boxes. Sky needed them. Sky got the deal. Sugar sold set top boxes! Nothing was ever proven as to whether he tipped off Sky's then Chief Executive, Sam Chisholm, about the figure required to land exclusive 'live' rights for Sky!

4 Vic Wakeling

Former Head of Sport at Sky. At this time he was Head of Football. He shared a car with David Hill and drove the length and breadth of the country persuading a sceptical 22 original members that we could deliver top class coverage.

2 & 3. David Hill/Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch's money was key to the whole project. Without it we almost certainly would never have heard of the P Lge. Hill, a legendary Aussie producer /creative in the TV world was the driving force behind the whole project. He drove thousands of miles with Wakeling cajoling and persuading the major players in the project. It was also his remit to get Murdoch to believe it could all be done.

1. Rick Parry.

Parry was the original Chief Exec of the P Lge. No Parry - no Sky Sports - no P Lge project - it wouldn't have happened. Simple.

I'm saving a whole lot more detail and stories for my book and as much as I found Harris's work an enjoyable read, trust me, my top 10 is a far more accurate list of individuals needed to make the P Lge the huge success that it's become.

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Show us what you can do guys - it's the soft option to keep telling us.

It's something that I've discussed before and it continues to worry me. Why is it that so many of today's retiring pro's want to work in TV rather than try their hand at coaching?

You might think I'd be the last person to be asking that question, after all, I've spent half my life talking to x-pro's in TV studios. So let me explain what I mean.

I'm often asked 'who's the best you've worked with?' It's an easy answer - they're all good guys and they all bring something different to the table. For instance - few, if any, match Glenn Hoddle for his ability to read a game. He's got one of the brightest football brains I've come across. Gianfranco Zola is also a very astute contributor.

Graeme Souness is different. He's intimidating. He has that quiet, well educated, delivery and one sentence can make you sit up and take notice. He watches football the way he played it! And as he's keen on telling us - he won 'everything' as a player. It's difficult to argue with what he says when he brings a cv like his to the table. That doesn't stop me winding him up though. I love it when he gets annoyed!

Ruud Gullit was once the best in the world. He wants to be 'entertained'. That's his style. It's also how he played.

I'm 'luvin' working with King Kev again. When you're in his company it's easy to understand why players would run through brick walls for him. He speaks with such enthusiasm.

Ray Wilkins has his own unique style, fella. He's been involved with the best - Ancelotti, Hiddink, Big Phil. His knowledge is 'tremendous fella'!

Have you worked out what they have in common though? Correct - they've all coached. They've all put their neck on the line. They can all talk with a wealth of experience. They've all handled big players. They've all won something. They've a suffered disappointment. They've all bought players, sold players, made decisions during matches to try and turn games. They've all named teams. They've all let players down by leaving them out. They've all faced training ground issues.  Are you getting my drift? They've all handled know-all directors. There's nothing they haven't done so they can speak with experience.

This is where I have a problem with the modern 'pundit' - a word I hate incidentally.

Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, to a degree Phil Neville, Thierry Henry, Martin Keown, Lee Dixon, and now Steven Gerrard it seems. They've all taken the 'soft option' of the TV studio.

Now, let me address some of the counter arguments. Yes, Gary has done a fine job for Sky and he's dipped a toe in the water working with England. Phil had a year with David Moyes at United. Both have sharp football brains, but it's one thing talking about it and a very different thing doing it.

Carragher is a football student. I've said this before. But the same applies. It was a huge disappointment to me that he didn't take a coaching job.

Now Rio. And now Gerrard from his long distance from his new base in LA.

We're losing some top talent to TV, which will always be there as Souness and co know only too well. There's plenty of time for that.

In their place comes a raft of manufactured school teachers and statisticians. Some have done spectacularly well I would admit, but we're creating an era, and also players, that only know one way - get it, short pass....get it back, short know what I'm referring to. There are no individuals in the game anymore. Look at what a succession of 'coaches' at Anfield tried to do to Gerrard.  Houllier's mantra was 'get it, give it, stop'.

Benitez once took Gerrard off in a derby because he was too 'pumped up'. Rodgers told a fellow coach he'd 'made him a player once he'd stopped him running all over the pitch like an empty crisp packet'. What nonsense.  Three men who coach from manuals. 

I've admired Martin O'Neill for years. Here's a guy who was prepared to argue the toss with Cloughie as a player! Martin was always full of his own ideas and had an unshakable belief in his own ability. He went on to prove it, starting at the very bottom with non-league Wycombe (as they were then).

He did a terrific job at Leicester and kept learning all the way to Aston Villa. He deserved better at Sunderland, but there's a club that's swallowed many a good guy.

One last argument to address. I can hear you all saying 'ah yes, but Andy Gray never put his neck on the line'.

Andy spent a year with Big Ron at Villa before returning to Sky. Talk to him about the offer from Everton and he'll tell you 'right club, but the wrong time'. 

Quite simply, he's the best ever. He re-invented TV analysis. He would probably never admit it but I know deep down there's a piece of him regrets not having had a go at management/coaching. It's too late now as well, but it's not for the 'new generation'. Show us what you know lads, don't just keep telling us what you think you know.