Coaches Pearson and Irvine face the heat in Premier League bottom-of-the-table scrap
It has been a season of unusual patience in the Premier League, with no managers dismissed as yet.
This weekend, though, could change that, with four of the bottom five facing each other and tempers beginning to fray among fans at both Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion.
The case of Nigel Pearson at Leicester is the most surprising. They were highly impressive in being promoted last season and were as high as seventh after their remarkable 5-3 victory over Manchester United on September 21.
Since then, however, Leicester have picked up two points from nine games and have slipped to the bottom of the table.
On Tuesday, they battled gamely against Liverpool and were probably the better side in the first half, before Wes Morgan was sent off amid a Liverpool flurry early in the second.
Liverpool scored twice and yet never looked entirely comfortable. In another context, it might have been a game from which to draw encouragement, but after such a miserable run, it just brought further disappointment.
A fan abused Pearson, the manager told him to stay home, and now a supporters’ group has called for Pearson to apologise.
Quite apart from being another example of a strange morality in which fans consider themselves entitled to dish out whatever abuse they like, but are mortified if anybody answers back, the incident seemed telling.
However well Pearson has done, no manager survives long if the crowd turns – unless they are Alan Pardew, but Newcastle is not a club that follows the usual rules.
An away game at beatable Aston Villa tomorrow offers Leicester City an opportunity, but that also means there is pressure.
If clubs are going to act, it makes sense to act now, giving a new manager time to prepare both for the busy Christmas programme and for the January transfer market.
There is also the Tony Pulis factor, with his work at Crystal Palace last season having given him the reputation of being a miracle-worker, and it is true that he has never been relegated.
Having left Palace, he floats as a constant source of anxiety for managers under strain: whichever club sacks their manager first gets the first crack at agreeing to a contract with him.
That said, it is safe to assume that West Bromwich Albion will not be turning to Pulis.
Their structure means the manager is a coach and has limited control over transfers, which seems to have been the issue that led to him leaving Crystal Palace in August.
Alan Irvine, though, is under clear pressure. West Brom created some chances against West Ham on Tuesday, but they ended up losing 2-1 to an injury-ravaged side, a fourth successive defeat.
Back-to-back wins in September aside, there has been little comfort for West Brom this season and the discontent at the Hawthorns was obvious on Tuesday. Lose to Hull City, a point below them, on Saturday and they could be in the relegation zone.
Hull have not won in two months, although away draws at Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton, offer hope and Steven Bruce still has credit in the bank after taking the club to the FA Cup final last season.
He admits, though, that new signings have not settled, a worrying sign because the failure to deliver on early promise has been such a recurring theme in his managerial career.
Perhaps the biggest game at the bottom, though, comes between Queens Park Rangers and Burnley.
Manager Sean Dyche’s side are resurgent, following up back-to-back wins with successive home draws against Aston Villa and Newcastle. The feeling persists that they might have won at least one of those games.
He, at least, seems under little pressure, with a widespread acceptance that the financial restrictions under which he is working make even having a chance of survival something of an achievement.
QPR, meanwhile, still have not picked up a point in an away game, but they are unbeaten in their last three at home. Since Charlie Austin, a former Burnley player, was paired with Bobby Zamora, they have looked far more potent.
Crystal Palace, another of the six teams within three points at the bottom, are at Tottenham Hotspur, and although the discontent was muted following their loss to Villa in midweek, it would not take many more similar results for fans to tire of manager Neil Warnock’s constant bleating.
A sacking is coming soon, and at the moment, it is Irvine and Pearson who look in the gravest danger.
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Published: December 5, 2014 04:00 AM