No-nonsense boss gives Hornets hope
Nigel Pearson’s acknowledgment that the FA Cup means little to him this season proves Watford have a manager on a mission.
The 56-year-old was drafted in to try and stop the bleeding after the Quique Sanchez Flores debacle earlier in the campaign – and he has done just that. Since his arrival, the Hornets have taken 11 points from six games, with three wins and a draw in their last four.
From a position where relegation looked a certainty, the Hertfordshire outfit are now in touching distance of safety, with 19 points to their name and just a two-point gap to 17th-placed Aston Villa.
There is no question the players have responded to the former Leicester City chief, while the return of striker Troy Deeney has been a shot in the arm for all at the club, and they now have every chance of beating the drop.
Momentum in football is key and therefore they could have done without the distraction of the FA Cup.
Pearson put out a weakened side against Tranmere and saw his charges squander a three-goal lead to set up the one thing he did not want – a replay.
With Premier League games against fellow strugglers Bournemouth and Villa on the horizon, the Vicarage Road chief would have wanted to focus on moving out of the bottom three.
He pulled no punches in his assessment of the cup this term.
“The league is our priority and I make no apologies,” he said after the 3-3 draw. “It was never my intention to do anything other than protect the squad.”
Therefore it seems likely a number of fringe players will get another opportunity at Prenton Park on January 14.
Managers tend to say all the right things prior to cup games, suggesting they will put out a strong starting XI but also give chances to younger players, but Pearson has never been one for mincing his words.
He knows top-flight survival is everything to the club and must strive to keep them afloat.
Whether or not that angers those at the FA will be of no concern to the ex-Hull City boss, who has had to deal with a plethora of injuries during his short stint in the dugout.
Should they manage to make it past Tranmere, either Wolves or Manchester United will visit in round four, and it is open to debate as to whether the manager will see that as a glamour tie.
Watford will not win the FA Cup this season but with a determined Pearson at the helm, there is every opportunity they will achieve their survival aim.