Nigel Pearson interview: Of course I'd be interested in managing West Brom
Managing a football club can often feel like an uphill struggle, so Nigel Pearson should feel at home this weekend when he takes on the daunting Three Peaks challenge.
The former Albion assistant is tackling Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon within 24 hours alongside a family friend involved in a serious motorbike accident to raise funds for those that cared for him.
But Pearson hasn’t swapped his football boots for his walking boots permanently, and is targeting a swift return to management after being sacked by OH Leuven in February following nearly two seasons with the Belgian side.
“I’m still keen to be a manager, but like most people who are out of work you have to wait for the next opportunity,” Pearson told the Express & Star this week.
“I worked abroad and would certainly do it again. Hopefully that will improve the possibilities for me, because I have that appetite to work.”
Having spent two years at The Hawthorns as Bryan Robson’s assistant, Pearson’s name often crops up when Albion are looking for a manager, as they are now.
He has pedigree taking teams out of the Championship, having guided Leicester City to promotion as champions in 2014.
He believes his stint in Belgium has improved him as a manager, and he would love an opportunity to return to The Hawthorns.
“Is it a job which I would be interested in? Of course it would be,” he said. “It's a club with stature and it’s a very attractive proposition. But ultimately it's down to what direction the club want to go in.
“I was offered it when Bryan got sacked but chose not to take it because I was Bryan's assistant. My decision was to move on. Tony Mowbray went in and did a good job.”
Pearson went on to manage Southampton, Leicester, Hull, and Derby before his surprise move to Leuven in 2017.
But the 55-year-old still looks back fondly on his time in the Black Country.
“I loved my time at the club, it was very well run back then,” he said. “Jeremy Peace wasn't everybody's favourite but he was somebody who understood what the club needed to function at the level it was at.
“We suffered a relegation, but it was testament to how the club was managed back in those days that it was able to get promoted again.
“First and foremost you have to be pretty open about what the circumstances are, you can't pull the wool over the eyes of your fanbase.
“Relegation is never easy. There has to be a plan to ultimately make them competitive enough.
“As we've seen it's not easy. There are always going to be a number of sizeable clubs in the Championship looking for the same outcome. It's such a tough division.”
Pearson’s move to OH Leuven in Belgium in 2017 was a surprise one, but he says he learned a lot from it.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It was a totally different experience. The first year was really good, we just missed out on promotion. The second year was really tough.
“We found it difficult to score goals, unfortunately the season became very difficult. If the results aren't good enough you lose your job.
“It was a very good experience for me as a manager. You're managing in a totally different environment, culturally speaking.
“What sort of level was the football? It's very hard to give an accurate comparison of what the second tier is like.
“At times there were aspects like the Championship but English football is such an energetic game.”
He still looks for Albion’s results on the weekend, although he hasn’t been back to The Hawthorns for a while.
He was surprised to see Darren Moore fired with the team in fourth, but had sympathy with the financial realities now facing the club.
“Like most people it came as a surprise to me when Darren got the sack,” he said. “When I worked there Darren was a player, and was always held in very high regard at the club.
“They made a decision to remove him. It’s a bit unclear what the plan is moving forward.
“With the squad of players that they have coming down from the Premier League it was an important year.
“What the implications will be now in terms of what the squad looks like I couldn't tell you.
“But they're going to have to decide who they want to manage them to try and get them back into the Premier League.
“It's always a difficult time for clubs when it is a realisation there will have to be a shift in the finances. We’ll wait and see.”
Pearson would love another crack at the Championship, but at the forefront of his mind now is the three mountains he has to climb this weekend.
He’s completing the challenge with two other people, his wife’s sister-in-law Julie Williams, and family friend Gareth Challinor, who broke his pelvis, tibia and fibula, and his arm in a bike crash.
They’re raising money for the Welsh Air Ambulance, the University Hospital of North Midlands, and the Wolverhampton MS Therapy Centre, all of which helped Gareth on his road to recovery.
“It's not an easy challenge to do, but it's something he's determined to do,” said Pearson, who is there for support.
“He's had to reassess what he does. He's not pain free, he had multiple injuries which have been very difficult to overcome.
“It'll be a tough challenge but something he's very keen to do to raise money for the people who took care of him.”