Pearson in Lineker tax dig as Leicester row continues

War of words erupts between amiable TV host and man who fended off a pack of wolves with a stick

Manager of Leicester City Nigel Pearson exchanges words with James McArthur of Crystal Palace
(Image credit: 2015 Getty Images)

On Saturday Leicester manager Nigel Pearson was in hot water for grabbing a player by the throat, but in the fall-out from the incident, he appears to be aiming a little lower – directing a couple of below-the-belt barbs at Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker.

There was confusion on Sunday with media reports that Pearson had lost his job as a result of the clash with Crystal Palace player James McArthur, but Leicester later issued a statement saying that the manager remained in his post.

Pearson obviously feels aggrieved and believes that the touchline altercation was blown out of proportion on the BBC's Saturday night highlights show. On Monday he sarcastically described Lineker and pundits Danny Murphy and Jermaine Jenas as "fountains of knowledge" and accused them of making "a mountain out of a molehill".

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They had suggested that his angry reaction to the clash with James McArthur illustrated the pressure he was under at Leicester, who are bottom of the Premier League.

Pearson also directed another caustic barb at Lineker, who has been forced to deny accusations of tax avoidance, commenting: "I don't care what they think of me. I pay my tax bill."

Lineker, who is from Leicester and has close ties to the club where he began his career, reacted to Pearson's comments on Twitter, and appeared to suggest that reports of his sacking were not that far wide of the mark.

.@PaulMcCarthy66 if I was I'd tell you that he was sacked by one of the owners' family and reinstated by another, but then I'm not. — Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 9, 2015

"It is believed that Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the chairman and billionaire Thai owner of the club, was behind the initial decision to sack Pearson, having been in attendance on Saturday," reports The Times. "However, his son, Aiyawatt, the vice-chairman, is believed to have persuaded his father into a change of heart."

Whoever comes out on top in the war of words, it is "embarrassing" for the club, says Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph. "This is a public spat which will infuriate the club's Thai owners, who have made Leicester staff very aware of the high standards of respect and dignity expected."

A "fog of doubt" still hangs over the Leicester boss, says Winter, who describes Pearson as "a fascinating but complex and moody character, equipped with strong values, a wry humour and an antenna twitching at perceived agendas".

But he notes that the 51-year-old, who enjoys exploring remote places, can indeed "take care of himself" as he claimed after the McArthur incident – he "once fended off a pack of hungry wolves with a walking stick for five hours while backpacking in the Carpathians".

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