NICK BARMBY has warned his Hull City players not to get side-tracked tomorrow by the return of Nigel Pearson less than a month after his shock resignation.
The Tigers’ former manager seems set for a hostile reception when he heads back to the KC Stadium in charge of new club Leicester City.
During Hull’s last three games, fans have voiced their anger over Pearson’s decision to walk out and Barmby admits the pre-match focus is likely to be on the 46-year-old Foxes chief.
However, Barmby is also at pains to stress that his players must not lose sight of their main target – sealing a return to winning ways after back-to-back defeats.
Hull’s caretaker manager said: “The attention is going to be on Nige coming back. I am sure it (Pearson’s reception) will be quite hot and I am sure the fans will let him know they are there.
“I am not saying for one minute that the fans should do this or should do that. Fans are passionate about the club and I wouldn’t tell them what to do.
“I have had it in the past as a player, where you return to a particular club and get a lot of stick. I am sure Nige knows he will get a bit of stick, there is no getting away from that.
“They love the club and will see fit to sing what they want, within reason obviously.
“But I am also sure our fans will get behind us, as they always do.”
Asked if there was a danger of the Hull team, the vast majority having been signed by Pearson, being swept up in the emotion of Pearson’s return, Barmby replied: “The way our players go about their jobs, they give their all anyway.
“When I hear about players giving 110 per cent, there is no such thing. You give your all and that is it. Our players will do that as usual.
“There will be a lot of attention on Nige coming back but the lads are up for it in the same way they have been for all three fixtures since he left.
“They won’t be approaching the game any differently. They will be professional and looking to win the game.
“The main issue is not getting wrapped up in it (Pearson’s return). We have to focus on our job. We need to get back to winning ways and to get back to keeping clean sheets. That is our focus.”
Pearson spent 16 months in charge at the KC Stadium, initially steadying the ship following relegation from the Premier League before the Allam family could save the club a year ago with a multi-million pound takeover.
Backed by significant transfer funds in the January transfer window, he then set about rebuilding the Hull squad as Matty Fryatt and Aaron Mclean arrived for seven-figure fees along with a host of other signings.
Despite a big improvement in results, a play-off push proved to be just beyond the club last term but this time around they are among the challengers.
Barmby, who stepped up to join Pearson’s coaching staff during the summer of 2010, said: “He did a really good job here, under difficult circumstances after we had fallen out of the Premier League.
“Under the circumstances, with the debt, players having to take wage deferrals when he first came in and then a takeover, it was a very difficult time as a manager.
“But the way he dealt with it was fantastic. It is important to remember that. Lads had to defer wages when he first came in so that wasn’t ideal. But he dealt with it brilliantly and the squad he assembled was talented.
“The club needed someone like Nige. I learned a lot, mainly his leadership and management. I would never bad mouth him.
“Just because he has left, my respect for him doesn’t change. I will always have that. But he has left and so we have to get on with it.”
Pearson has enjoyed an encouraging start to life back at Leicester, having led the club to two wins and a draw in his first three games to lift the Foxes into the play-off places – something that proved beyond Sven Goran Eriksson during his year in charge.
Tomorrow’s game will see Leicester take on a Hull side made up almost entirely of players signed by Pearson, meaning the Foxes chief is in no doubt about the task that lays ahead.
Pearson said: “There will be sub-plots to the game and I can understand why, but I have to just focus on the game. The focus remains the same and outside of that I can’t influence anything else.
“I am going to try and remain focused on our team and just because we know their players doesn’t mean we are going to change our approach. It will be, as always, about what we do. We are aware that it will be a tough place to go to.
“I am sure the game will be a quick tempo. They have good players so we will have to strive to be at our best.
“Obviously we know a lot about the players because the majority are players we signed when we were there. I am sure they will be looking to develop themselves now and it will be tough, because they have been unlucky in the last few games.”
Hull have no fresh injury concerns following the midweek defeat to Southampton, while two long-term absentees – Seyi Olofinjana and Richard Garcia – both took part in a behind-closed-doors friendly yesterday at the club’s Cottingham training ground.