On Saturday Leicester City managed to prolong their Premier League existence for another week, but the Foxes still remain odds on to make a direct return to the Sky Bet Championship next season. Their victory away to West Brom at the Hawthorns saw City mount a spirited comeback from trailing 2-1 with ten minutes to go. When Jamie Vardy sent the ball to the back of the net in the dying moments it showed a tenacity in the visitors that they have lacked all year, as well as an odd late lapse from a Tony Pulis managed side.
It’s been a difficult year for Leicester, with many pundits tipping them for a bottom place finish before a ball had been kicked. For much of the season they have reflected that prediction, despite flashes of quality from a team shown little investment by the board. Unless they mount an unlikely great escape, the opening fixtures of the season – including the sublime 5-3 victory over Man Utd. will undoubtedly go down as the highlight for fans.
Amongst the memorable moments in a year of few for supporters will also be the incident between manager Nigel Pearson and Crystal Palace’s James McArthur. When the Scottish midfielder ended up tangling with Pearson on the side-line, it resulted in them both ending up on the ground – with Pearson clutching at McArthur’s neck (I wonder is it too late for a Pearson UFC run?).
In a bizarre 24 hours, Pearson appeared to have been sacked by the Leicester board, and was even informed of his dismissal by an executive. Hours later he was told by a more senior ranking board member that he would not be let go and still remains in charge.
Sure, Pearson gets marks for entertainment value, but with seven games remaining and the Foxes now three points from safety few if any managers are better placed to weather the storm.
You see, he’s made somewhat of a career out of being involved in keeping teams who had no right in staying up out of the relegation zone, often at the last minute. Here are those last gasp survivals in order (of epicness):
3) West Brom 2004/05 His first such experience came as assistant manager to Bryan Robson, at West Brom in 2004. No team bottom of the Premier League at Christmas had ever avoided the drop. To make matters worse they were also bottom going into the final day. A 2-0 home win over Portsmouth and results going their way elsewhere saw The Hawthorns become unglued. They did get relegated the season after, mind.
2) Southampton 2007/08 Persons fist relegation escape as manager saw him keep Southampton in the Championship, ironically at the expense of Leicester. Appointed mid-season in February 2008, there was little time to steer the Saints to safety with the transfer window also shut. But he managed to do so with a victory over Sheffield United on the last day despite looking set for demotion throughout the afternoon.
1) Carlisle 1998/99 However, by far the greatest Pearson relegation survival is that of the fairy-tale, Roy of the Rover-esque ending to Carlisle United’s campaign at the turn of the century. The Cumbria side looked set for an inevitable fall out of the Football League and into the Conference, with the resultant financial implications of doing so. In fact, Scarborough who were relegated instead ended up going out of business not long afterwards.
The closing stages of the game against Plymouth needed a Carlisle goal with the score deadlocked at 1-1. With ten seconds on the clock United win a corner and their on-loan keeper Jimmy Glass sprints up to the opposing box in desperation. The ball eventually breaks to Glass who smashes it home with a poachers instinct.
It’s a bittersweet fairy-tale too. Glass spent little of his journeyman career as a regular and ended up retiring at the age of 27.
Is it beyond Leicester to do similar? Hull, Sunderland and Aston Villa are certainly hoping Pearson doesn’t pull off another magical esacpe.