The 51-year-old has been the focus of much unwanted scrutiny following reports of his on-off sacking at the start of the year, and his infamous ‘ostrich’ tirade at a bemused journalist. But Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel claims one of Pearson’s many strengths is his very different public and private personas.
“The manager has been immense,” claimed Schmeichel after Leicester sealed the point they required to stay up. Half of their 38-points have come in the last six weeks thanks to an improbable run of six victories and a draw in eight matches. “Nigel Pearson is the best manager I’ve played under and it’s difficult to put into words the job he’s done here.
“It’s important to point out that the Nigel Pearson seen by others and the Nigel Pearson we see are two very different people. He’s a charismatic guy, and a born leader. For me, he’s the manager of the year.”
Asked if survival was the perfect response to his detractors, Pearson insisted: “I don’t see it like that.” The Leicester manager made a conscious decision to bear criticism this season in an effort to shield his players, and added: “You need perspective on how certain things have been reported.
“More than anything, it shows the scrutiny you’re exposed to is greater in the Premier League, but I don’t think I’m any different to how I’ve ever been. I will have to look at one or two things, but I’m not daft.”
Schmeichel was marginally the busier of two under-employed keepers in a contest largely to forget, saving from Seb Larsson, Danny Graham and Adam Johnson. Steven Fletcher headed wide as Sunderland recorded a 16th draw of the season.
Leicester could have won it when Andrej Kramaric fired over an unguarded net following an error from Costel Pantilimon, but regardless of that glaring miss, the result saw Leicester’s ambitions achieved, while leaving the hosts tantalisingly short of theirs.
“Maybe we’ve missed a bit of an opportunity to clinch it,” Connor Wickham confessed. “But I wouldn’t say we’re too disappointed because we know what we have to do and it’s in our hands now.”
Sunderland need a point to secure a ninth consecutive season of top flight football, though few would give them much hope of returning from trips to Arsenal and Chelsea this week anything other than empty-handed.
That would leave them vulnerable to the admittedly unlikely scenario of final day victories for Hull and Newcastle at home to Manchester United and West Ham respectively.
Wickham added: “We’re in a similar position to the one Leicester were in today knowing a point will be enough. It was a party atmosphere for them at the end, and hopefully this week it will be the same for us.”
Pantilimon 7; Jones 7 (Reveillere 86, 5), Coates 6, O’Shea 6, van Aanholt 6; Bridcutt 4 (Johnson 61, 6), Cattermole 6, Larsson 6; Defoe 6, Graham 5 (Fletcher 81, 5), Wickham 4.
Schmeichel 8; Wasilewski 8, Huth 8, Morgan 8; Albrighton 7, King 7, Cambiasso 7, Schlupp 7; Mahrez 5 (Drinkwater 68, 6); Ulloa 5 (Kramaric 75, 5), Vardy 6.
Martin Atkinson 6