Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson has every chance of justifying odds of 66/1 to win the LMA Premier League manager of the year award.
Seven points from safety with nine games to go, having lost six of their previous eight games, mutterings to such an effect had been growing with every one of the six wins in seven outings he conjured from his side to ensure survival one fixture early.
After three straight victories the Guardian had already begun to wonder:
“Will Leicester City pull off the greatest escape in the Premier League era?”
When the deal was sealed the Telegraph reported it thus:
“It is perhaps the greatest of all escapes. Leicester City were Premier League no hopers at the end of a bleak mid-winter and manager Nigel Pearson was every bookmaker’s favourite to become the next Premier League boss to lose his job.”
The latter quote highlights the fact that, for the Foxes boss, the circuitous route to survival has been a personal as well as collective redemption.
Pearson has spent the season on a steep top-flight learning curve that saw his side lose ten times in 11 games before Christmas, yet resisted the urge to fall on his sword as Ian Holloway had done the season before.
Instead he maintained his faith in his players and his methods and has been rewarded for it.
A supposed Champions League qualifier bias is apparent if it’s considered that just three managers have won the award having failed to secure a spot in the competition since the first one was presented in 1994.
However, two of those to do so, Alan Pardew and Tony Pulis landed the gong inside the last three years, suggesting a greater appreciation of the efforts of managers outside the limelight.
Jose Mourinho is 13/20 favourite, with Ronald Koeman 14/5, Pardew 7/1, and ‘any other manager’ the only other option shorter in the betting at 9/1.
Yet each of the trio have question marks of underwhelmingness against them…
Chelsea, expected to finish second at worse this term, have hardly been the most thrilling of league winners, while Koeman’s Saints had taken their feet off the gas in a big way prior to their Aston Villa capitulation-inspired victory at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Pardew may suffer from both the fact that he won the award with an arguably greater achievement in 2012 and that Pulis masterminded a more mind-bending relegation escape with Crystal Palace last year.