12 months ago today, Leicester City confidently dispatched Barnsley to claim a third successive 3-0 victory for Nigel Pearson’s team, as they moved closer and closer to a long-awaited return to the Premier League.
But since the memorable campaign last time out, it has been a wholly different story for the Foxes, who currently see themselves bottom of the pile, seven points from safety with just 11 games to save their season. Is it time for Leicester fans to concede that they are destined for the drop?
The odds don’t favour City, who would become only the third team in Premier League history to avoid the dreaded drop after seeing themselves bottom at Christmas; only Sunderland last season and the famous great escape of West Bromwich Albion of 2004/5 have managed such a feat, which Pearson was involved in. With the Foxes four points off 19th placed, Burnley, it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine catching a Tim Sherwood-inspired Aston Villa side, currently on 25 points from their 28 games to date, with Leicester seven points adrift on 18 points from 27 (their game-in-hand is at home to league leaders Chelsea!). However, there is still hope for City who can look to West Ham United – the Hammers, in the 2006/7 season, had 20 points from 29 games, but managed to end the season with 41 points, finishing 15th. They did, however, have a certain Argentine striker who goes by the name of Carlos Tevez, remember him?
Despite the infamous 5-3 victory over Manchester United back in September, wins have been hard to come by for the East Midlands club, racking up just four all season. Defeat at Manchester City last week really epitomised Leicester’s season so far; play well, have chances, don’t take them, concede, come away disappointed. The same happened at the Emirates, Stamford Bridge and Loftus Road. The team’s performances have been exemplary and have caused trouble for the league’s top sides, but the width of the woodwork, a poor refereeing decision or an unlucky deflection have so often gone against the Foxes that it now means they are fighting so desperately for their survival. Other than the trip to Tottenham and the home matches against Chelsea and Southampton, Leicester could hardly wish for a better run-in. Points will be up for grabs and if they can convert their chances a little better and remain tight defensively, there’s no reason as to why City won’t pick up enough points to see them avoid the drop, albeit by the narrowest of margins.
But if Leicester could choose one person to guide them through this difficult period, a certain Nigel Pearson would be fairly high on the list, one would assume. Despite an apparent sacking earlier on the year, Pearson remains in charge at Leicester and has not been hiding away from the limelight. After an altercation with a home fan towards the end of the defeat to Liverpool in December, Pearson was subsequently given a touchline ban before a rather bizarre incident in the game against Crystal Palace saw the Foxes’ manager come together with Eagles’ midfielder James McArthur.
The pair ended up on the deck together, with the 51-year-old seemingly holding McArthur round the neck before grabbing a hold of his shirt, refusing to let him return to the field of play. However, the Thai owners have remained loyal to Pearson and have kept him in charge, for the time being at least. The former Shrewsbury, Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough defender has been through it all before. In the 1998/99 season, it was Pearson’s Carlisle side that staved off the drop out of the Football League when goalkeeper Jimmy Glass scored that famous winner against Plymouth in the dying embers of the game saw Pearson’s side cling onto their Football League status by the skin of their teeth. Fast forward six years to the battle of survival at the foot of the Premiership and Pearson, assistant to Bryan Robson, saw their West Bromwich Albion side avoid relegation in the most dramatic of circumstances.
In 2008, Pearson then kept Southampton in the Championship with a tremendous comeback against Sheffield United on the final day of the season, sending his current employers Leicester City into the third tier of English football for the first and only time in their history. Evidently, Pearson has been through this challenge before and has managed to mastermind some of the game’s most memorable survivals, so why can’t Leicester City’s Premier League Survival 2014/15 be the next chapter in his story?
Not only are Leicester City under the scrutinising, conscientious watch and guidance of Nigel Pearson but also are fully supported by a vocal, passionate fan base, who will surely play a major role should Leicester stay up. With the gate exceeding 30,000 supporters each game at the King Power Stadium, as well as a highly-commendable away travelling, the Foxes know that they will be fully supported right until the very end, no matter what the outcome. With academy graduates Jeffrey Schlupp and Andy King especially desperate to see the club stay up, as well as record signing Andrej Kramaric hopeful of notching up a few more goals to help his new club survive, everyone can see the team spirit, the togetherness all around the club, with everyone fully focused on one goal and one target: survival.
Although it may be looking increasingly unlikely that Leicester will be remaining in the top flight next season, with a dramatic turn of events and results becoming more and more desperate for the Foxes, we all know that the squad and the staff will be doing everything they possibly can do to avoid relegation to the league they blitzed past last season to get to where they are now. With the leadership of a man who has been through this all before, this must inject some hope and positivity but at the end of the day, no matter how much experience they have and how well the team plays, it is results and points that are needed now. One thing is for certain, Leicester City vs Queens Park Rangers on May 24 could go down in history…