In the wake of Adam Pearson’s shock departure from Leeds United on Tuesday night, the Yorkshire Evening Post analyses five things he did in his brief four months in charge.
1: Experience of running an English football club
Or ‘a’ football club for that matter. Leeds have had other employees in the chief executive mould during Massimo Cellino’s time as owner - Matt Child and Andrew Umbers last season - but both Child and Umbers were learning on the job. Pearson’s experience of running Hull City gave him the training and, just as crucially, the contacts for the job. When it came to reshaping the staff at the academy, he knew what to look for and where to find them. When it came to transfers, he knew which deals to push and which to suggest that Leeds pulled back from. He saw commercial agreements across the line and spoke publicly with the sort of clarity that United have been missing for many years. Most of the staff respected him - albeit with certain exceptions - and it was generally felt that Pearson as executive director could only be an asset. Working beneath Cellino, he’s the one person who has managed to make Leeds run like a Championship club.
2: The ability to complete deals
Cellino has and will always have the final say on transfer at Elland Road but so much of United’s summer transfer business was left to Pearson. The 50-year-old negotiated Billy Sharp’s departure to Sheffield United and was left to tie up most of the signings made by the club. Leeds set realistic targets and did not miss out on many players who interested them. It may be significant, or perhaps coincidence, that the one deal which Cellino looked after personally - the attempt to land Fernando Forestieri from Watford - was the deal which became messy and acrimonious. That’s not to say that Pearson had the midas touch. Negotiations with Sam Byram over a new contract came to nothing last month and the severance of Neil Redfearn’s contract as academy manager was not pretty. But business in Pearson’s hands was as safe as it should be in the hands of a club’s chief executive.
It is still not clear exactly why Pearson was so willing to make himself available to Cellino and align himself with a club who had untold problems in May. Some said at the outset that Pearson was the eyes and ears for a future investor, a claim he always laughed off. It is true, certainly, that Pearson had previous history with Leeds and is naturally attracted to professional football but his willingness to get involved at Elland Road was a coup for Cellino and something of a Godsend for as long as it lasted. United’s supporters were inclined to trust him and Pearson tended to deliver on promises. “You’ll see some key appointments,” Pearson said on the day Uwe Rosler was named as head coach. Rosler’s backroom staff, including head of recruitment Martyn Glover, is fully five strong. Pearson promised changes at the academy and the changes arrived. How effective they’ll be remains to be seen but Leeds have operated with increased credibility in the past four months. That’s why Pearson’s departure will cause so much concern.
4: The knack of controlling Cellino
When you think of Pearson’s influence, you think back to the launch of United’s new kit in July. It was the first time Cellino had been seen out and about for a while and his demeanour was an eye-opener - relaxed, happy and quite detached. For the first time, he seemed pleased about the idea of someone else nudging him into the background and carrying the can and the bulk of the workload. Some journalists thought the stress which Cellino once coped with was more visible in Pearson, which was not surprising considering the weight of responsibility Cellino took on when he first bought United. But the bottom line is that they found a way of working together and co-existing. Leeds will do well to find another chief executive who can keep Cellino so sweet.
5: A long-term view
A strange thing to say when Pearson is clearing his desk after less than six months in his job. But he understood the concept of stability. He wanted Rosler to be given space and peace to get his plan up and running. He wanted to make sure the academy was supplemented with new staff and given an experienced boss. When he talked last night about his “huge level of disappointment” at moving on from Elland Road, he was essentially admitting that he did not expect or plan to be leaving so soon. “I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think I was going to stay,” he insisted in May. Did Pearson, who still runs Hull FC rugby league side, burn out or is there more to his departure? The question was bound to be asked.