ADAM PEARSON has hailed the re-building job done by Hull City manager Nigel Pearson.
The Tigers head to Brighton & Hove Albion today firmly in the promotion hunt after a six-game unbeaten run that meant the East Riding club spent the international break sitting in the play-off places.
Such a lofty standing contrasted sharply with exactly a year ago when City went into the 11th game of the season sitting 16th in the Championship table.
Within a month, Hull had slipped even further down into the relegation zone as the financial problems mounted at the KC Stadium following demotion from the Premier League.
The Allam family takeover, agreed in early November but not finalised until the following month, ensured City survived and since then the club has thrived with last season’s 11th place finish giving way this time around to a promotion challenge.
Hull’s chances of returning to the top flight will receive a serious examination in today’s tea-time kick-off at the Amex Stadium when they take on Brighton, who have spent the break sitting one place and two points above Pearson’s men.
Regardless of the score, however, head of football operations Adam Pearson is full of praise for his namesake.
He said: “Nigel Pearson has done a fantastic job, first in steadying the ship at what was a difficult time due to the debt owed when Hull City were relegated from the Premier League and then in building a decent squad.
“I have been at two clubs who had to cope with relegation from the Premier League and it is not easy. At Derby, I remember clearly just what a battle it was to see the wood for the trees. It cost Paul Jewell, a good manager, his job.
“The problem was Derby had gone down in horrendous shape. The club was struggling, though probably not to the extent Hull were when they went down.
“The squad had to be pruned and, luckily, Kenny Miller and Robbie Earnshaw were sold for big sums. That under-pinned everything.
“That first year after Derby had come down was very difficult. We tried to crank it up but it was a struggle. The managers that take on that task in the first year after relegation from the Premier League have a tough job.
“The only time it is different is if a club can keep their squad intact, as Newcastle United did.
“The whole pruning process is difficult. The players know a club can’t afford them and they don’t want to be there.
“You don’t particularly want them there and the whole atmosphere is not good. It is almost like a hangover, with the battle being to try and win enough points to stay up while sorting out the finances.”
Hull’s relegation came two years after Derby’s own demotion and was followed by the surprise move made by Nigel Pearson, who opted to swap Leicester City – a club he had just led to the Championship play-offs – for the KC Stadium despite the ruinous state of the Tigers’ finances.
Pearson quickly set about his task, moving on as many of the high-earners as possible in an attempt to free up finances to re-model the squad.
Only one transfer fee – the £50,000 Arsenal banked for Jay Simpson – was paid during that first transfer window and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Hull initially struggled.
One win from the opening five games, a run that included a trip to Doncaster Rovers that the new manager missed following a health scare at the team hotel, meant the pressure was on but Pearson was able to plot a path through the club’s troubles and ensure they were competitive at the time of the Allams’ rescue.
Since then, City’s fortunes have soared and Adam Pearson said: “Hull went through the same process as Derby did two years earlier and Nigel did a great job to guide the team through.
“What I have really liked is how Nigel has managed in an unbelievably non-fussy way at a time when the turnover of players has been huge.
“I remember playing Doncaster last year, the game he missed through illness. Our team was a rag-bag outfit, full of players who didn’t want to be there.
“We had so many we needed to get out, while the manager wanted to bring his own players in. But it was always going to take time.
“The key is getting through that first year of transition still intact as a club. If you don’t then the whole place is in freefall. Luckily for Hull, Nigel was strong enough to bring us through it.”