Hull City: Chalk and cheese as Steve Bruce faces Nigel Pearson
By Philip Buckingham, Hull City reporter ...
IF A football side is said to mirror its manager, Hull City's trip to Leicester City promises to stage an almighty style clash on Sunday.
Ten yards will separate Steve Bruce and Nigel Pearson on the touchline, but the pair stand poles apart in their footballing philosophies.
Where the character of Bruce is open and engaging, a cautious Pearson holds up an impenetrable public guard.
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One encourages adventure, the other breeds caution.
Neither manager's qualities can offer guarantees of long-term success, but the stark juxtaposition between Bruce and Pearson will ensure few City fans travel to the East Midlands mourning the loss of their former boss this weekend.
Three months in charge of the Tigers and Bruce has already struck up a bond with supporters that was beyond Pearson during his 18-month reign in East Yorkshire.
If it were needed, Tuesday's 3-2 victory at Leeds United – City's first at Elland Road for 25 years – was the final confirmation of Bruce's unanimous appeal.
Bruce, after just eight league and cup games, has captured the imagination of City supporters. Even when steering the club admirably through the financial storms of 2010, it was a feat that evaded Pearson. While one plays the PR game adroitly, the other chooses not to even get involved.
But it is their fortunes on the pitch that places Bruce on a pedestal high above Pearson ahead of their clash at the King Power Stadium.
Bruce, the Tigers' history maker and hoodoo breaker over the last month, can do no wrong at present.
Thirteen points from the opening six games is a start to the season not witnessed in these parts since 1993, when the golden pair of Linton Brown and Dean Windass gave Terry Dolan's side a breathless opening month in the third tier.
Three consecutive wins were also achieved by Pearson at the KC Stadium 12 months ago. The style of the hat-trick, though, sets the two men apart.
While Pearson racked up three consecutive 1-0 wins over Reading, Peterborough and Portsmouth with the Tigers last September, Bruce's prolific side have netted 10 goals in victories over Bolton Wanderers, Millwall and Leeds United.
Both sequences netted City the same nine-point haul, but only one of the two runs will be talked about a generation from now.
For the first time since their Premier League adventure under Phil Brown, City are offering consistent attacking entertainment. Although Pearson and Nick Barmby fleetingly inspired invention and creativity, a dearth of goals ensured two bids to reach the play-offs were ultimately flawed.
With goals now at every turn this season, you suspect the same tale will not unfold for a third time.
Bruce, as he puts it, is asking his side to "have a go". Another eight months will have the final say, but he will surely not die wondering.
On-field success is not all a fan craves, however. Just look at the epitaph of Pearson here in East Yorkshire.
Given his record at the KC, the former boss ought to be remembered for the right reasons.
Pearson was the figure responsible for keeping heads above water before the arrival of the Allam family midway through his first season, and handed over a side brimming with potential when absconding 10 months ago.
Views of his legacy were inevitably jaundiced following his abrupt switch to the East Midlands but it was a reign that commands greater respect than currently afforded.
There is the power of image.
While the candid approach of Bruce has engaged supporters, Pearson's withdrawn stance left him open to unfair charges of apathy.
Time and again though, Pearson did himself no favours.
A final press conference as City boss following the 2-0 loss to West Ham United last November had him claiming he was "not bothered" how supporters perceived him.
A month earlier at Brighton he said he "couldn't give a monkey's" if his "dour" reputation had spread to his ranks.
It should not detract from the achievements of Pearson, of course, but those spiked comments did little to paint him in a favourable light.
That image has seemingly spread to Leicester.
Fans of the Foxes adored Pearson during a hugely successful first stint at the club. Promotion out of League One and a near-miss in the Championship play-offs ensured his aloof demeanour was glossed over by his fine achievements.
Ten months on from his return, though, and it is not all sweetness and light ahead of City's visit.
A 2-1 win over Burnley on Wednesday released some pressure from Pearson's shoulders, but the first signs of impatience are creeping into the King Power Stadium.
If Paulo Sousa and Sven Goran Eriksson were both sacked by Leicester's ambitious board after three months of a new season, Pearson may not be granted time unless fortunes improve.
City supporters would dearly love to see that spotlight shone back on Pearson with a fourth consecutive win for the Tigers this weekend but it is a sub-plot to a fairytale for Bruce and his men.
Where once City fans endured Championship fixtures in the last two years, now they cannot wait for the next.
And just like Bruce's approach to the Hull City hot-seat, the change is wonderfully refreshing.