Uwe Rosler had a strong ally in Adam Pearson. They understood each other and felt mutual appreciation for each other’s expertise. Sitting at the same table on the day of Rosler’s appointment, they were usually on the same page.
“We’ve brought in a head coach who knows his own mind and who’ll be strong in those principles,” Pearson said. “He’ll have my fullest support.”
It was Pearson’s way of saying that in the confines of a club where head coaches tread on thin ice, he would make it his job to protect Rosler and give the appointment time to play out. His sudden departure on Tuesday was indeed a blow for Rosler, in part because of the healthy relationship the German built up with his executive director but also because of the impact Pearson’s resignation will have on the structure of management at Elland Road.
Whether Pearson’s exit was amicable or not – and no-one concerned will say that it wasn’t – he leaves behind a heavy workload and a vacuum of authority. Pearson deferred to Massimo Cellino, as everyone at Leeds does, but Cellino broke his own mould by giving Pearson a long rein. Transfers, commercial deals, academy changes, legal matters; the 50-year-old took responsibility for matters which, in Cellino’s first year as owner, the Italian insisted handling himself and often struggled to handle well.
The effect on Cellino was almost liberating. He said so himself several times during the summer. And Pearson’s input ensured that business was taken care of. One of his last acts as executive director was to finalise the recruitment of Paul Hart as United’s academy director, a role which could not have stood vacant for much longer. Several other arrivals had his fingerprints on them too: Daral Pugh and John Anderson as academy coaches and Sean Rush, formerly of Hull City, as Leeds’ new conditioning coach. Cellino embraced his advice and allowed Pearson to use his contacts.
Pearson’s four months involved their own levels of stress and strain. It was not problem-free. Leeds are facing legal claims from former head of academy welfare and education Lucy Ward and ex-fitness coach Matt Pears after sacking both of them. Pears was dismissed after missing United’s pre-season friendly with Everton, despite believing he had permission to attend his brother’s wedding in Portugal.
Cellino was made aware of Pearson’s intention to resign after Pearson unexpectedly phoned him and asked for a meeting on Sunday. They spoke again at Elland Road on Monday and agreed that Pearson would leave. There were rumours on Tuesday that health problems were among Pearson’s reasons for quitting his post, rumours that neither he nor Leeds have commented on. Cellino said only that he would welcome him back into the same job “if he feels ready.”
Externally, Pearson was seen as a shield for Rosler and a layer of protection which previous head coaches have worked without under Cellino. In his time in charge, Rosler has not been forced to look too often to that line of defence but Pearson did his best to keep Cellino at a suitable distance from the coal face. As a friend of Pearson’s said: “He told Cellino what Cellino needed to know. A lot of other things he just got on with and dealt with.”
It was clear after Tuesday’s defeat to Ipswich Town, the club’s first loss of the Championship season, that Rosler felt Pearson would be missed.
“We established in a very short time a very good relationship,” Rosler said. “He came here at roughly the same time as I came to the club and we started together. I call Adam a friend. I wish him all the best. Hopefully one day I will see him again. My line of report was always to Mr Cellino direct. But obviously when you have someone like Adam with his experience and his football knowledge and with him as a person, all his values, of course I was very much looking to communicate with him on a regular basis. That’s what we did.”
Rosler was adamant that both his relationship with Pearson and Pearson’s relationship with Cellino were strong and productive. “You can believe me on that,” he said. What was not immediately clear was how Cellino planned to react to the loss of his second-in-command. Pearson was de facto chief executive at Elland Road, with a depth of duties to match the job title. Cellino said he was “keeping the role open for him” and the YEP understands that the Italian does not intend to replace Pearson. A source close to Cellino said he would “double his workload” instead.
Asked if he wanted to see a replacement come in, Rosler said: “That’s a club decision. It’s Mr Cellino’s decision. I am the head coach, I have my working areas. I can’t answer you on that.”
United’s boss would doubtless appreciate Pearson’s support after a difficult week of performances and results. Unbeaten in six games before Tuesday, the German accused his side of lacking “courage” and “bravery” during their 1-0 defeat to Ipswich and admitted afterwards that a late equaliser would not have made the night feel better.
“We put so much into the (unbeaten) run,” said Rosler, who spoke with Pearson on Tuesday morning several hours before his resignation was announced. “In some games we were unlucky and sometimes it was hard to come back. But we found many ways to stay unbeaten.
“(On Tuesday) even if we would have come back, everyone among the public would have seen it as a defeat. We got defeated. Now we can move on.”