NICK Barmby remains surprised that Nigel Pearson chose to leave Hull City after doing such a sterling job in difficult circumstances.
However, ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Pearson’s Leicester City, the Tigers manager insists the only motivation for his players at the King Power Stadium will be boosting the club’s push for a play-off place and not a desire to get one over their old boss.
Hull have already taken three points off the Foxes this season, a dramatic late strike by Robbie Koren clinching a 2-1 win in what was only Barmby’s fourth game in charge.
The scenes of jubilation at the final whistle in December suggested the win meant more to the fans because it was against a manager who had just walked out on the club.
But Barmby insists the Tigers owe a debt to Pearson for his 18 months at the helm in East Yorkshire.
He said: “Nigel did a good job. Some of the players he brought in to this club were good and hungry. I will never say anything against Nigel in that respect.
“He did a very good job under extreme circumstances where players had to defer wages, which is difficult. The morale can be not the greatest because of that.
“To pick the lads up and bring players in as he did, then, yes – he did a very good job.”
Asked if he and Pearson had spoken since Hull’s win over the Foxes last year, Barmby replied: “We haven’t spoken, no. He obviously has a job to do and so do I.
“I will see him on Saturday. My concern is not Leicester, it is Hull City.”
Pearson quit as Leicester manager to take charge at the KC Stadium in the summer of 2010, just a few weeks after the Tigers had been relegated from the Premier League amid ruinous debts that would eventually peak beyond £30m.
Barmby added: “You have to be wary of getting into a downward spiral when relegated from the Premier League. It has happened to a few teams.
“Nigel saw that and stopped it so that shows his managerial ability. It was sad to see him leave but we have got on with it and so has Nigel.
“I was surprised he left but he has his own reasons and you have to respect them. But it is gone now and we can’t change it. We look to the future and this club will always be here, whether I am here or anyone else.”
Barmby may be keen to strike an appreciative tone when discussing his predecessor ahead of tomorrow’s game but Pearson’s attempts to lure away Cameron Stewart during the January transfer window are understood to have riled the Hull hierarchy.
Bids of £1m and £1.5m were rejected amid suggestions by owner Assem Allam that Leicester were “trying to disturb the psychology of our players”.
The focus tomorrow, however, is solely on claiming a win that could, depending on results elsewhere, see Hull return to the top six.
Barmby said: “Leicester is a big game. It is a great stadium and the game is one we are looking forward to. There is that little bit of edge with it being Nigel we are up against and what happened earlier in the season.
“But all that matters is the three points.”
With Pearson having signed the vast majority of the players expected to be on duty for the Tigers tomorrow, the Leicester manager will clearly have a huge insight into Barmby’s squad.
However, the Hull chief said: “I don’t think it will make a difference. We are near the end of the season and if you are not studying teams now then you never will. We know how the majority of teams play and all the players.
“It can help when you have been at a club but I don’t think that is an advantage to anyone.”
Hull’s 2-0 defeat at home to leaders Southampton on Tuesday brought to an end an 11-game unbeaten run. In terms of Hull’s promotion bid, however, the damage was limited thanks to all but Brighton & Hove Albion of their rivals either losing or drawing in midweek.
It means the Yorkshire club will make the trip to the Midlands sitting just two points adrift of the play-off spots with a game in hand on three of the five teams directly above them in the table.
Last season, Nottingham Forest clinched sixth place with 75 points but Barmby does not believe in setting his side a target other than winning as many games as possible.
He said: “I don’t think a point tally can be put on it. Everyone seems to be beating each other, getting a good result one week but then not a week later.
“Who knows what the total will be? I am not really bothered about what anyone else does. All I am bothered about is this club and how we do. If we win more games than those above us then we will be in the play-offs.”
Robert Koren (hamstring) will miss tomorrow’s game after being sent for a scan on the injury that forced him out of the action at half-time against Southampton.