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There has been something unbecoming to Nigel Pearson’s season with Leicester City. A campaign in which the manager has kept the club in the Premier League with one of the most encapsulating tales of great escape has been marred by unsavoury outbursts at the media as well as his own fans, as well as the bizarre episode when Pearson grabbed Crystal Palace’s James McArthur by the neck on the touchline.
A week after the 5-1 home thrashing of QPR rounded off the season that culminated with seven wins from the last 9 games, Leicester and Pearson now find themselves at the eye of another storm after three players were involved in a sex-tape during a post-season tour of Thailand, the home of the King Power travel retail company that own the club.
Leicester are now investigating the video that contained one of the player’s appearing to use a racial insult against a woman and to make matters worse for Pearson, his son James is allegedly involved in the tape that was obtained by the Sunday Mirror.
The Foxes have been here before, in the days when foreign ownership were still way off into the future, when the two trips to La Manga in 2000 and 2004 both ended with allegations of misconduct, the latter resulting in the appearance in court of six players amidst claims of sexual aggression. There are loose similarities with the past in this latest episode but what makes this particularly sensitive is the family-friendly image the club attempts to cultivate and the ties they now have with the country of their chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaphraba and his duty-free business.
Thailand’s links with the club are ubiquitous with the country’s flag being flown outside the stadium that bears the name of its main sponsor King Power which is also adorned on the front of the shirts. “Amazing Thailand” is printed on the back of the bright-blue that will be again beamed to a global audience next season after Pearson guaranteed their survival in the Premier League but with growing claims for his son, Tom Hopper and Adam Smith to be sacked in the aftermath of their involvement in the latest scandal, those three players are unlikely to be wearing them.
Of the three involved, only Pearson, a 21 year old defender, made a single first-team appearance last season, in the league cup defeat to Shrewsbury Town and while the club may face a difficult dilemma in how to deal with the manager’s son as they seek a punishment, Pearson senior will be thankful that no first-team players were involved.
After beating the drop with a superb run of form that saw them take 22 points from their last eight games after ending March at the foot of the league, the manager has a summer to build on such momentum as he seeks to forge a squad that is capable of climbing even higher than their eventual 14th place finish.
Leicester’s Thai owners have proven their loyalty to Pearson during a turbulent year and were repaid with survival, so will be unlikely to dispense with the manager, but will hand him a transfer kitty believed to be in the region of £20 million to strengthen the squad.
The priorities however will be to retain the core that were at the club last season, with a £3 million deal for Stoke’s Robert Huth, whose arrival on loan in January was a key factor behind strengthening their upturn in form for the later part of the season. Esteban Cambiasso, who brought with him vast experience and invaluable class on a free transfer from Inter Milan, will have to be retained when his contract expires at the end of the month or they will lose a pivotal asset in the middle of the pitch.
Pearson used all areas of his squad last season with 20 players all making at least 10 appearances in the Premier League and the likes of Paul Konchesky, Ritchie De Laet, David Nugent and Marc Albrighton, all cast-off from other top-flight clubs, were morphed into important players. Danny Drinkwater, Matty James and Andy King, all vital to their promotion in the 13/14 campaign, managed to translate their good form to a higher level. Marcin Wasilewski and Riyadh Mahrez, both signed in that promotion season, were also impressive in their first season at the top level.
Mahrez, scorer of four goals and was also Leicester’s leading chance-creator with 44, from which he registered three assists, grew into a very able attacking threat as the season progressed, terrorising defences with his direct running on the right or centrally behind the two strikers. Pearson will aim to maximise the Algerian’s creativity by adding a consistent goal-scorer as Leonardo Ulloa, the club’s top-scorer with 11, only managed to hit four goals since Boxing Day.
Nugent and Jamie Vardy were both next on the chart, level with five goals each, and while both willing runners in a forward line that presses intently from the front, are not regular sources of goals. This may see them go back in for Crystal Palace’s Dwight Gayle, who they tried to sign in Janaury, while Pearson will be hoping for more from the 23 year old Andrej Kramaric, the Croatian who has limited his talent to just glimpses since joining for a club record fee halfway through the campaign.
Sebastian Coates, with his stock rising after a spell on loan at Sunderland, Mile Jedinak of Crystal Palace and Gareth McAuley are also said to be on a shopping list which seems to have a theme of strong and resilient hard-workers running through it, characteristics on which Leicester’s survival mission were founded.
Bring them in to supplement a squad that already boasts strength in depth as well as experience of Premier League survival and Pearson won’t be far off from progressing on a sound first-year in the top-flight. He will however, have to make sure he loses the unwanted headlines once and for all.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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