EMBATTLED Leicester manager Nigel Pearson lurched into a new row with Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker yesterday as he attempted to brush off doubts over his future at the Premier League’s basement club.
Pearson failed to explain why the Foxes waited several hours on Sunday evening to deny widespread reports he had been sacked, the day after a bizarre touchline spat with Crystal Palace’s James McArthur.
But he did point the finger at the BBC show’s experts for highlighting the scuffle with McArthur, comments which drew a swift and pithy response from ex-England captain and former Leicester player Lineker.
“It’s not helpful when the three fountains of knowledge on Match of the Day make a mountain out of a molehill,” he said of the McArthur incident, in which he appeared to hold the midfielder down by the throat. “There’s nothing in that on Saturday. The lad is okay and it was very light-hearted. How it was reported was totally inaccurate.”
Pearson, banned for one match and fined £10,000 for an ugly row with a fan in December, said Leicester’s Thai owners, the Srivaddhanaprabha family, had not reprimanded him for grappling with an opposition player.
“Our owners are fine, as they were with the incident with the fan,” he added, ahead of tonight’s league trip to Arsenal. “You’re looking for news which is not there.”
Lineker hit back at Pearson with two tongue-in-cheek remarks, the first referencing the Leicester manager’s insistence that he could “look after himself” when initially questioned about McArthur on Saturday.
“Ah Nigel Pearson is blaming MOTD [Match of the Day] for making a mountain out of a molehill,” Lineker wrote on Twitter. “We’d best be careful in future, the fella can look after himself.”
Lineker then responded to another tweet: “If I was [a fountain of knowledge] I’d tell you that he was sacked by one of the owners’ family and reinstated by another, but then I’m not.”
Of the uncomfortable few hours on Sunday in which it appeared Pearson had been sacked, he would only say: “The club made a statement and I’m not going to speak about it.”
Leicester, who have lost 14 of their last 19 league games, face an Arsenal side smarting from a derby defeat to Tottenham on Saturday but bolstered by the return of top scorer Alexis Sanchez.
■ December: A Leicester fan
Handed one-match ban and fined £10,000 for rowing with a Leicester fan during loss to Liverpool
■ February: James McArthur
Appears to hold midfielder McArthur by throat and then tugs him by shirt during home defeat to Crystal Palace
■ February: Uwe Rosler
Post-McArthur, takes swipe at ex-Wigan boss who “opened his trap when he should’ve kept mouth shut”
■ February: Gary Lineker
Blames Match of the Day experts for storm surrounding McArthur incident