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Leicester City right to give Pearson another crack of the whip


It is 17 years since Leicester City last tasted play-off success when Steve Claridge's last-gasp strike fired them back into the Premier League.

His 120th-minute finish against Crystal Palace in the 1996 Wembley final secured City's place in the top flight in Martin O'Neill's first season in charge.

City fell agonisingly short of emulating that dream last season when they slipped to defeat to Watford in the Championship play-off semi-final.

Manager Nigel Pearson had made no secret of the fact promotion was the sole target last season and, ultimately, it was a goal they failed to reach.

But the club's owners have shown faith in their manager and have stuck by him to lead the team into the start of the new season.

Claridge said the owners have made an intelligent decision, although Pearson may have midfielder Anthony Knockaert to thank for it, whose stoppage-time winner on the final day of the season secured City's play-off place against all the odds.

"I think it would have been difficult to make a case for him to stay if they hadn't made the play-offs," said Claridge, pictured right. "That would be the least that's expected.

"But they got there, and eventually they were beaten by a last-minute goal. That can happen.

"I think the owners have shown great fortitude and great character. They have shown a degree of consciousness that the grass is not always greener.

"They have been down the Sven (Goran Eriksson) line and that clearly didn't work, it was never going to work.

"The owners have seen the other side of it, looked at it, and probably thought 'he made the play-offs, so let's give him another go'.

"Pearson's record at this level isn't bad. When you weigh up everything, I don't think it's a bad decision. I genuinely don't.

"He will be under pressure and he will have to start well but he knows that. But I certainly think he deserves another go."

City boasted the third-youngest squad in the entire Football League last season with many of their first-choice players tasting a full campaign in the Championship for the first time.

"They will have learnt, they will be a year older, a year wiser, a year stronger, a year where they have been through that turmoil – which is important – a year where they have had to handle that pressure," said Claridge.

"But Pearson is also not in a position where he has got the time to allow people to develop. Everyone wants to see young players given a chance, yet no one wants to give a manager time to develop them. It is a double-edged sword.

"On the one hand. everyone wants young players to come in but, on the other hand, everyone wants results now. That's your problem."

While the squad's shortage of experience may have proved a weakness last season, Claridge thinks it will help them in the wake of such a heart-breaking end to the last campaign.

"I don't think it will negatively affect the younger players," said Claridge. "It can affect older players because they wonder whether they will ever get another chance.

"Younger players don't say 'oh it could have been the Premier League, I'll never get there', they will think about doing it the following year."

But City's 1996 play-off hero also warned City's young stars, such as Knockaert, that they have to be more consistent.

"Talent isn't doing something good once in a game, talent isn't playing one good game in five," said Claridge.

"This game isn't just about ability. It is about application, character, learning the game and being intelligent enough to know how to develop it.

"Even when you don't play well, it's being intelligent enough to understand you need to be fit. That extra bit of fitness will give you that extra advantage over the opposition.

"There are players, like Knockaert, who look great on the ball. When they are good they are very good. But that has to be at a more consistent level so when he's bad, he's not so bad."

Leicester City right  to give Pearson another crack of the whip

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