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May 5, 2014 / ultrafox1963

Pearson with point to prove in Premier League

Leicester City - Reebok StadiumIt was a day that many Leicester City fans had feared would never arrive.

But the exile from English football’s top flight has finally, after ten gruelling years, been ended – and in some style.

City’s 1-0 win over Doncaster on Saturday takes the club’s tally for the season to 102 points – a club record and the biggest total at this level since 2010.

The euphoria among the Blue Army stands in stark contrast to the desolation and despair felt a year ago, when the Foxes were eliminated from the playoffs by Watford in the most excruciating of circumstances.

Those heartaches, and the many others that preceded it during the past dismal decade, can now be consigned to history. Instead, Nigel Pearson and his squad are now looking eagerly towards the future as they prepare for adventures in the promised land.

Many, both within and beyond the Foxes fanbase, had serious doubts about whether Pearson had the capacity to take this team to the top flight. But he has confounded those critics in no uncertain terms. Indeed, he now has the unique distinction of having both captained and managed teams to lift the Football League crown in the modern era.

City have dominated the division to an extent rarely witnessed in recent seasons, defeating 21 of their 23 opponents at least once during the campaign. With local rivals Derby County and Nottingham Forest among those left trailing in their wake, the club now look set for a prolonged period of regional supremacy which will secure its long-term future for generations.

Banishing the cliques, egos and loose cannons that had previously been a barrier to progress at the club, Pearson was able to realise the dream of City’s Thai owners, whose generous backing helped to make his achievements possible.

With crowds of over 30000 expected on a regular basis next season, and boardroom backing to spend significant sums in the transfer market, the incumbent manager has advantages that no other City boss has enjoyed in modern times.

The Championship trophy has often been a poisoned chalice in recent years – the previous four managers to hold it have all been sacked within months. However Pearson is confident that his charges can make a real impact in the top flight and prevent him from suffering a similar fate.

Indeed, should the Foxes re-establish themselves as a competitive Premier League force, as happened during the Martin O’Neill era when the club’s resources were far more limited than now, an even more glittering prize may lie in wait for Pearson.

At some stage within the next two years – perhaps even as soon as this summer – the question of a successor to Roy Hodgson as manager of the England team is likely to arise.

The media, and much of public opinion, will expect his heir to be a home-grown product. Yet the pool of domestic managerial talent does not run particularly deep at present.

Tim Sherwood, the current highest-placed English manager within the Premier League, was never likely to be more than a stopgap at Tottenham, while both Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce, despite boasting a wealth of top-flight experience, carry far too much off-field baggage to be regarded as realistic contenders.

Should the vacancy arise in the coming weeks, perhaps in the wake of yet another World Cup failure, Steve Bruce, who has taken Hull into the Premier League and onwards into Europe, would probably emerge as a front-runner for the post.

However the prospect of Bruce in such a prominent role would not exactly quicken the pulses of many fans who have endured the grim, functional fare served up by his sides during the past decade and beyond.

The clamour would soon arise for someone capable of producing more flair and creativity. Could Pearson fit that bill?

Right now, this would be a tall order for a manager who, at the age of 50, has yet to record a single victory in the Premier League.

Two years from now, however, things may look different, particularly if Leicester manage mid-table respectability in the top flight, perhaps in conjunction with the type of cup run enjoyed by Hull (and in recent seasons Stoke and Swansea too).

The quality of the current squad should not be in doubt. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has already distinguished himself at international level, while players like Danny Drinkwater, Anthny Knockaert and Jamie Vardy will all be eager to prove themselves as Premier League assets.

Pearson seems set to dispense with the traditional attritional approach adopted by previous City managers following elevation to the top flight, as he seeks to create a side which is capable of winning hearts as well as points.

If his aim is true, his long-held dream of occupying the Wembley hotseat could yet be turned into reality.

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