First Team 04/04/2020

Pearson: “Football Really Does Pale Into Insignificance”

By Kevin Affleck

Football continues remain of secondary importance to Nigel Pearson right now as the world realigns its priorities and seeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus and treat those who have contracted it.

Pearson has been involved in the professional game for nearly 40 years and is proud to be Head of Coach of Watford, but feels talk of Premier League status and resumption of the season is misguided at a time when thousands of people around the world are losing their lives.

“Football really does pale into insignificance really when you see how something like this can affect us all,” said Pearson said on Episode Two of The View From the Vic podcast, which is out later today (Saturday). “It's a really difficult time for everybody, there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of readjusting and I think it's become more shocking and more real as we move forward.

“I'm the same as everybody else and that's just adjusting to a different way of living at the moment. It's important we are all staying safe and making sure we do what we can do in our small way and help the overall picture, not just in our country but worldwide.”

Pearson revealed in an interview with The Guardian last month that his mum died unexpectedly three months ago. His parents were together for 64 years so he's moved his father into his family home during this lockdown period.

“My dad is staying with us,” he said. “I went to pick him up a couple of weeks ago and he's now with us. We're being very careful as he's 86. He's my head gardener and I'm his apprentice! He's doing a great job.”

Pearson manages his squad with a real light touch and he's trying to combine his role as a son, a husband to Nicky, a father to James and Hannah with one of mentor to his players.

“There is the element of still trying to be in contact with the players,” said Pearson. “I've spoke to half the squad today, just to check in and see how they are. A lot of the players are away from their families and we have to try and understand what it means to people. Both my kids live in Sheffield and I walked to see them today and talked to them through the window. But if you are living away from your family it makes it even more difficult psychologically. We have to look after our own, that's the most important thing, but I don't think a day goes by when most people don't spare a thought for people having a more difficult time. It's a worrying time but what it does do is sharpen people's conscience about what it means for other people.”

The Head Coach is also regularly in touch with his coaching staff and the medical team as they seek to execute a remote programme for the players and plan for the resumption of training.

“We had a staff meeting via Skype the other day,” said Pearson. “There were 16 of us on it. It took two hours as we've got to try and communicate in different ways. When that many people are on a Skype call, everyone has to mute and only unmute when you are going to talk otherwise there is too much background noise. It takes a bit more patience. 

“We have to find different ways of keeping in contact with each other and also have to remember we work no different to any other work force. Some are a bit vulnerable at the minute and without contact. Some are alone. There are lots of things we meed to consider in terms of the well-being of people. As an ordinary bloke I'm just adjusting in the same way as everybody else but with my work head on, there is still the element of trying to keep some sort of cohesion among the football staff, keeping in contact with the players. A lot of them are young men who don't have family around. My time is very much split between ... keeping in touch with staff and making sure we keep on top of situations professionally but the bigger picture and the priority is everybody and looking after ourselves and each other. That at the moment is the priority.”


News: Premier League Statement

The Premier League have today released the following statement regarding season return, financial help to clubs and to NHS in fighting coronavirus and aid to EFL and National League clubs...

At a meeting of Premier League Shareholders today, clubs discussed in detail how to respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic. First and foremost, it was reaffirmed that the overriding priority is to aid the health and wellbeing of the nationand our communities, including players, coaches, managers, club staff and supporters.

It was acknowledged that the Premier League will not resume at the beginning of May – and that the 2019/20 seasonwill only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so. The restart date is under constant review with all stakeholders, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we work together through this very challenging time.

The Premier League is working closely with the whole of professional football in this country, as well as with the Government, public agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the game achieves a collaborative solution.With this, there is a combined objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches to be played, enabling us to maintain the integrity of each competition. However, any return to play will only be with the full support of Government and when medical guidance allows.

The sporting and financial implications for Premier League clubs as well as for The FA, EFL and National League were considered at today’s meeting.

In the face of substantial and continuing losses for the 2019/20 season since the suspension of matches began, and to protect employment throughout the professional game, Premier League clubs unanimously agreed to consult their players regarding a combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of total annual remuneration. This guidance will be kept under constant review as circumstances change. The League will be in regular contact with the PFA and the union will join a meeting which will be held tomorrow between the League, players and club representatives.

Discussions also took place regarding financial relief for clubs in the short term and while there is no single solution, measures are to be put in place to immediately deal with the impact of falling cash flow. Critically, the League unanimously voted to advance funds of £125 million to the EFL and National League as it is aware of the severe difficulties clubs throughout the football pyramid are suffering at this time.

Further to that assistance, the League remains committed to supporting the National Health Service, its staff and helping people in communities, not least those who are most vulnerable. The League, clubs, players and managers express huge appreciation for the heroic efforts of NHS staff and all other key workers who are carrying out critical jobs in such difficult circumstances.

In consultation with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Premier League is immediately committing £20 million to support the NHS, communities, families and vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes a direct financial contribution to the NHS and funds to enable clubs to refocus their efforts and develop significant outreach programmes to help communities, including those most in need. This funding will enable both immediate and longer-term support during the crisis.

In response to COVID-19,  Premier League clubs have been supporting tens of thousands of people in their communities each and every day through targeted activity including donations to foodbanks, telephone calls to the elderly, food parcels delivered to the vulnerable and a wide range of free resources to support wellbeing and education. Many Premier League clubs are also working closely with their local NHS Trusts to provide valuable support through the provision of resources, volunteers and facilities. Now, more than ever, clubs are playing a vital role to support the wellbeing of those in their communities and alleviate pressure on critical health services.

Working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and the NHS, the wide reach and appeal of the Premier League and our clubs will continue to be used to promote important public health messaging throughout this crisis.

The Premier League would like to reiterate that the thoughts of all our clubs are with all those directly affected by COVID-19​.