If patience is a virtue in the Championship then Leicester City are the blueprint. Ten years of exile from the Premier League will end this season unless Nigel Pearson’s squad are shaping up for a sudden collapse.
Patience in the past decade has come largely from Leicester’s supporters as it has from Leeds United’s. The clubs were relegated to the Championship in the same horrendous year and spent one season together in League One. But the masterstroke for Leicester was their calm refusal to sack manager Nigel Pearson in May.
Pearson looked vulnerable seven months ago after his team were beaten by Watford in the most dramatic of play-off semi-finals; the coach at a club whose sustained – almost unrivalled – investment in players had delivered nothing tangible during Pearson’s time in charge.
Tomorrow he brings Leicester to Elland Road with a useful advantage at the top of the Championship and a virtual guarantee that City will end the season with no less than another go at the play-offs. It is a situation which convinces Brian McDermott that patience at Leeds could allow his own tenure to go the same way.
Pearson phoned McDermott to commiserate with him after Reading were beaten in the play-off final in 2011. Reading won the Championship title 12 months later. Leicester are following a similar track but McDermott’s admiration for Pearson’s survival is tempered by his own desperation for a victory this weekend.
“If you look at Nigel Pearson last year, it shows how resilient managers have to be,” McDermott said.
“I felt for him, just as he did after I lost the play-off final. He rang me after the play-off final and I felt for him after what happened against Watford. Because that was an incredible game.
“To go through the summer and pick themselves up, it shows you what a resilient man and team they’ve got there. But they’re coming to Elland Road, and Elland Road’s a tough place to go.
“We need to be right up for the game and we will be. When our team’s on the front foot, it’s a tough place to come. Everyone knows that.”
Leicester are the Championship’s form team and Pearson’s side flexed their muscles with a 4-1 victory over Derby County a week ago.
United’s form is a complete contrast, showing four defeats back-to-back and a six-game run without a win. They dropped to 11th in the table after losing 6-0 at Sheffield Wednesday last Saturday – the club’s heaviest loss for more than half a century – but a four-point gap is all that separates McDermott’s team from the play-offs.
The Leeds manager is encouraged further by a home record which shows only one defeat since September, albeit in their last outing at Elland Road against Blackburn Rovers on New Year’s Day, but he conceded that sorry displays against Wednesday and Rochdale had left a debt owing to United’s supporters.
“If we win the game tomorrow we could go eighth,” McDermott said. “That tells you everything. People do forget.
“But we know we need a reaction after what’s happened. We really do know that. Our form at home is good, it’s been really good, and that shouldn’t be overlooked but we’ve got to get back to that, get a result and restore our pride. That’s the most important things as far as I’m concerned.
“You’ve got to get over (bad results), you’ve got no choice. The only time you fail is if you don’t get up. If you get back up, you’ve got a chance.
“I’ve talked about going back to basics and talked about what’s required in this league and that’s what we’ve concentrated on this week.
“You can’t dwell on what’s happened. It took me two or three days to get my head around it all but I had to move forward.”