By Martyn Herman
July 19 (Reuters) - Nigel Pearson was denied the chance to complete his great escape with Watford when he parted company with the club on Sunday with two games of the season remaining.
Speculation grew throughout the day that Pearson had been sacked and the club finally confirmed the news in a statement.
“Nigel Pearson has left the club with immediate effect,” it said. “Hayden Mullins, with Graham Stack as his assistant, will take up the position of interim head coach for the Hornets’ final two Premier League fixtures of the 2019/20 season.”
Pearson is the third manager sacked by Watford this season.
The 56-year-old was hired on a short-term contract in December with the club bottom of the league.
Known as a great motivator, Pearson sparked a transformation in form with four wins in his first seven league matches.
They also became the first team to beat Liverpool in the league this season, shortly before the season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Watford’s form since the restart has been patchy, however, and defeat at West Ham United on Friday means they are still in danger of being relegated, sitting one place and three points above the drop zone with two games left.
Pearson said some of his players had been “passengers” in the 3-1 defeat at West Ham.
Significantly, Watford’s last two games are against Manchester City and Arsenal, although they could survive without picking up another point this season.
Watford began the campaign with Javi Gracia at the helm but he was sacked in September and replaced by Quique Sanchez Flores who returned for a second spell.
Sanchez Flores lasted only three months, however, before the club’s Italian owner Gino Pozzo turned to Pearson.
Pearson, who also engineered a great escape as Leicester City manager in 2015 before also being shown the door, is Watford’s most successful Premier League manager in terms of win rate (35%) and points-per-game ratio (1.25). (Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Pritha Sarkar)