Managerless Watford welcome Manchester City to Vicarage Road in the Premier League on Tuesday as the Hornets fight for top flight survival.
Midway through Bournemouth’s vital Premier League clash with Southampton on Sunday afternoon, the shock news broke that Nigel Pearson will be leaving Watford Football Club with immediate effect.
Pearson’s departure comes with the club sitting in 17th, a place above the relegation zone, and with a 3 point cushion to those below them.
Suggestions are that manager Pearson and club director Gino Pozzo exchanged ‘frank views’ on the direction of the football club in the wake of the Hornets’ 3-0 demolition by fellow relegation candidates West Ham United last time out.
With it being so close to the end of the season and Pearson so close to completing the job he was brought in to do, the timing of the announcement made for surprising news, even for a club as erratic in the managerial department as Watford.
A club statement released yesterday by the Hornets broke their website – there was a server error because so many people were trying to read what was going on – and it was a rather brutal farewell.
A club statement read:
‘Watford FC confirms that Nigel Pearson has left the club with immediate effect. Hayden Mullins, with Graham Stack as his assistant, will take up the position of Interim Head Coach for the Hornets’ final two Premier League fixtures of the 2019/20 season. There will be no further club comment.’
Questions over whether Pearson was sacked or walked may well be answered in the evident absence of a thank you, as is often customary in statements of this ilk.
The former Leicester boss now joins Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores on the Vicarage Road scrapheap, with Hayden Mullins in caretaker charge for the second time this season.
The scrap to stay up is far but complete, despite the Hornets’ points advantage – particularly with their latest opponents Manchester City a wounded animal after their disappointing FA Cup exit on Saturday.
City were knocked out in the semi final at Wembley by Arsenal, who ended any thoughts of a second consecutive treble with a 2-0 win at the national stadium.
Pep Guardiola will perhaps be concerned at his side’s patchy form post-restart, with several emphatic victories polluted with occasional spluttering performances.
With an eye on next month’s resumption of the Champions League, the Spaniard is almost guaranteed to use the final two games of the Premier League campaign to fine tune his thoughts ahead of the clash with Real Madrid.
Not only are Watford without a manager heading in to the clash with City, they are also without the influential Gerard Deulofeu as he recovers from knee surgery in Spain.
Defender Daryl Janmaat is another absentee who won’t feature between now and the end of the season.
Interim boss Hayden Mullins will be sweating on the fitness of Troy Deeney, who limped off against West Ham last time out with fluid on the knee.
Etienne Capoue and Adam Masina are also touch and go for the game at Vicarage Road, having suffered knocks against the Hammers.
Manchester City won’t have Sergio Aguero at their disposal – he remains out with a knee issue – it remains to be seen whether he is fit in time for the return of the Champions League.
Reserve goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has a knock – otherwise, Guardiola has a fully fit squad to choose from, and is likely to tinker in true Pep fashion.
Watford v Manchester City is a 6pm kick off on Tuesday, 21 July.