Oporto Sports client Nigel Pearson joined a virtual De Montfort University (DMU) lecture via Microsoft Teams on Friday 5 February to take part in a discussion with the university’s aspiring sports journalists.
During the two-hour session the students received a lesson in life and football writing, as reported here by DMU Sports Journalism student, Oliver Taylor.
Lessons in life and football: “It’s important to show integrity with how you deal with people.”
Oliver Taylor reports.
It would be very easy to form an opinion on Nigel Pearson based on his much-clicked press conference highlight reel on YouTube.
He knows how he looks on these. He told us – a class of enthralled DMU Sports Journalists – on Friday afternoon.
Yet beneath his unapologetic and usually blunt defence of whichever club employs him and the players who play for him, Pearson is a straight-forward man who rates honesty, integrity and decency.
“I’m a big softie despite how people sometimes perceive me,” he says.
“One of the things I’ve always tried to do, and my wife will tell me I do it badly, is keep work at work and home at home. People who know me in the game know I’m a nightmare to get hold of because my phone’s always on silent.”
It was, he said, the best way.
He turned 57 last year. Out of work since being controversially sacked by Watford last year – despite steering the Hornets out of the Premier League bottom three – the Sheffield resident is currently converting his shed into a sauna and he’s itching to get back to the game he loves.
This is not the same man who’s reached almost a mythical status for his press conference highlights. Why is that? Because it is exactly that, he said – it’s a myth.
While being the darling of the media is far from his concern, he’s not the pantomime villain one might assume him to be.
“If I’m doing a press conference or any interviews, I know the ground rules: I’ve got a job to do and so have you,” he says. “I’ve sat in some press conferences and been grilled by very tenacious, well prepped, well-read journalists who know their stuff.”
He liked that, he explained. He liked good journalists who had done their homework and weren’t afraid to ask him the tough questions.
“What irritates me more than anything is lazy journalism,” he added.
A self-described thinker, being challenged with a different line of thought to his own was clearly a cathartic experience for Pearson. He admitted he only slept for four hours each night because his mind keeps ticking.
And while he might be sat on the other side of the table during his press conferences, the importance of objective, honest journalism is not lost on him.
“If all we get is journalism from the perspective of the football club, we’re moving towards a dictatorial state and that’s not what we are,” he said, with a dismissive shake of the head.
“If we don’t have that we may as well not bother, we may as well live in a communist state where we’re taught not to think.”
Pearson has used his 40-plus years in football to develop a philosophy which applies to football, life – and even press conferences. He values honesty, integrity and decency even when the subject at hand challenges him.
“You can’t go through my sort of job and be totally guarded all the time or you live your life in a cocoon otherwise,” he explained.
“It’s important to show integrity with how you deal with people.”