Nigel Pearson insists the future is bright at Bristol City but says the club’s potential must be built upon if it is going to challenge for promotion to the Premier League.
A top-six finish in the Sky Bet Championship has alluded the Robins since the 2007/08 season when they lost to Hull City in the play-off final.
After four wins from four at the start of this campaign, City dropped to mid-table after enduring a run of 11 defeats in 15 league games since December 1, which led to Dean Holden’s sacking as head coach.
Pearson signed a short-term contract until the end of 2020/21 but has already expressed his desire to stay at Ashton Gate beyond this season and says his long-term aim is to build on the foundations for success in BS3.
“I would imagine our fanbase doesn’t want to hear the word potential too much,” he said during his first press conference as City boss.
“What we have is a really good foundation to make the next step and everybody’s aspirations are to get out of the Championship, what I do identify with is the club’s ethos on how they do that.
“What we have to do is finish the season with a positive message. The medium and long-term future is bright but having the infrastructure is one thing, doing it is another. I’m one for living in the moment.”
‘This is a positive move for me’
First division games were last played at Ashton Gate nearly 41 years ago, but a redeveloped stadium, a new training ground, a revitalised academy system, and the expanding Bristol Sport franchise have raised hopes that one day, top-flight football could return to the West Country city.
Robins supporters will hope Pearson can enhance those ambitions, with his arrival bringing experience gained by guiding Leicester City to the top flight in 2013/14, as well as his most recent stint at Watford where he reversed their fortunes in the Premier League before being controversially relieved of his duties with two games remaining last term.
“We have to be pragmatic at the moment. The club has so much going for it, we have a fantastic fanbase. Geographically we have the chance to have an identity of our own,” he added.
“It felt a positive move to make. I was pleased we could speak frankly about what was needed in the immediate future. I see this as a good club and I like the ethos of how the club is structured.
“The infrastructure is geared towards a positive future. We have to make that happen.
“There are lots of good things coming for the club. I felt this was a real stimulus for me from the initial conversations.”
Pearson’s most urgent task though is to rectify City’s form. Tuesday’s 3-1 win away at Middlesbrough constituted their first victory after seven straight defeats in all competitions.
Two Famara Diedhiou goals and a tidy Nahki Wells finish in the space of just 16 first-half minutes secured the three points at the Riverside, as Pearson watched on from the stands.
“The important thing was to change our fortunes,” Pearson added.
“The preparation was good from the coaching staff. We needed a good team performance first of all – and that’s what we saw last night.
“A good tenacious team performance. We allowed our pace on the counter-attack to come to the fore. The most important thing was a positive performance and I felt we had that.
“We had to show a bit of resilience and to score three goals in the first half was possibly a relief for the players.
“Some players will naturally take plaudits. For me I look at it as a collective effort.”
‘Me and Joey Barton have exchanged messages’
Monday was a hectic day for Bristol’s two EFL clubs, with Joey Barton confirmed as Rovers’ new manager around 10 hours before Pearson was formally appointed on the other side of the River Avon.
Upon Barton’s arrival at the Memorial Stadium, the former Fleetwood Town boss said he had texted Pearson to congratulate him on taking the reins at BS3, and even joked about sharing a flat with him in Bristol.
Reflecting on Barton’s appointment, Pearson said: “I think he’s a god appointment for Rovers. I don’t know who would do the cooking [if they shared a flat]!
“I think he’s got a bright future. People can have preconceived ideas but the reality can be different.
“I’d like to meet him when we can. There’s an element of humour here but we’re both very aware we’ve got jobs to do that are not necessarily straightforward.
“We and Joey exchanged a few messages. I have a lot of time and respect for him. He’s a very intelligent man actually.
“It’s part and parcel [social media] of the modern world. I’m not a dinosaur. I’m overwhelmed by a lot of the messages I’ve received. That type of thing matters to me.”