The play offs: Behind enemy lines

Greg Pearson (source: Pete Norton/Getty Images Europe)

Greg Pearson (source: Pete Norton/Getty Images Europe)

Width of a Post’s Mahesh Johal caught up with former Burton striker Greg Pearson to get his thoughts on the forthcoming play off semi final between Bradford City and the Brewers.

I first came across Greg at university. Unlike most, he had the arduous task of juggling both a degree in physiotherapy and a career as a professional footballer. An athletic centre forward, Pearson was a former graduate of the famed West Ham academy. After several loan moves and stints in the lower tiers of English football, he eventually found home at the Pirelli Stadium, Burton, netting 37 goals from 128 games.

Pearson will forever be associated with the recent success of the club, as his 20 goals helped the Brewers achieve promotion into the Football League in 2009. A focal point and talisman of his team, Pearson went onto continue his form in Burton’s first season in the Football League. He holds several distinguished records, including becoming the club’s first ever scorer of a Football League goal and hat trick.

Talking to him this week about his time at Burton, it is clear that he looks back proudly and fondly. He talked to me about the club’s great infrastructure and how family friendly it was. With top class facilities and a quaint stadium, Pearson feels the solid foundation laid by then manager, Nigel Clough, and chairmen, Ben Robinson, has helped the club progress.

He was full of praise for both men but in particular Clough. Pearson described his former manager as a ‘great man’ and someone they were lucky to keep hold of so many seasons. He was also very grateful for the opportunity and faith shown in him by Clough. When describing the Chairman, he praised Robinson’s business brains and the time he gives to managers to implement their own ideas and ethos. Fundamentally, Pearson talked about stability and how it has helped the club grow.

He is still in touch with several players at Albion and will be going on holiday with a few in summer. Like many already, he pointed to Jacques Maghoma as one of their key players. He talked of his pace and trickery, as well as Maghoma’s ability to score goals from midfield. Pearson also felt the lack of Lee Bell in midfield would be a blow for the Albion. The pair played together last season at Crewe, and he spoke highly of the combative midfielder. Pearson suggested that Burton would struggle to replace his experience and tenacity on the pitch. Greg pointed at Bell’s successful playoff promotion last season, and how it’s important to have players in a team that had “been there before”.

Pearson knows about the heartache of play offs defeats. Last week, his current club, Kidderminster Harriers, lost in the Conference play off semi final. A tough pill to swallow, he admitted that he’s unlikely to watch the final on television. However Pearson hopes to be at the national stadium to see Burton. He believes that his former team mates have a chance as long as they keep it tight at Valley Parade.

Pearson has good memories of his appearances at Bradford. He played in the Brewers first trip to Valley Parade, and it is still to this day one of the biggest crowds he has played in front of. Even though half full, the atmosphere generated in the stadium was something he still talked about. Whilst he acknowledged the cliché, he reiterated that if Burton were able to quieten the Valley Parade crowd, then there would be a chance. He also felt the fact the second leg was at the Pirelli could be an important factor.

A former team mate of Kyel Reid, Pearson said that the Bradford winger was one of the quickest players he has ever seen. Whether he plays is a different matter, but Pearson appreciated the skills that both Reid and Zavon Hines added to an already quality City team. The Bantams will go into this game as favourites and rightly so; but as Greg poignantly mentioned, his Kidderminster side were the form team and the club expected to win and go up. It is this point which City fans should think about the most!

A big Villa fan, Pearson has already suffered at the hands of the Bantams in a semi final tie. No offence intended, but I hope that, come Sunday, it will be another!

Categories: Interviews, Previews, The 2012/13 play offs

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