When you think of football’s toughest players, names like Vinnie Jones, Duncan Ferguson, and Pepe may come to mind. But what about the truly hard footballing figures? Look no further than the former Premier League boss who fought off a pack of hungry wolves with nothing but his bare hands.
The story came to light in early 2015 when the man himself, Nigel Pearson, fessed up to the outrageous encounter. Pearson, who was still managing in the Championship at the time, took a trip to Transylvania during some well-earned downtime in 2007. Transylvania, a mountainous area of Romania, is famously the home of Count Dracula and is awash with myths about vampires and werewolves.
Pearson’s trip to the notorious region almost led to disaster after he was cornered by a pack of vicious wolves. During a trek through the wilderness, the former Leicester boss claims to have been surrounded by five savage beasts. To escape, Pearson gouged one wolf’s eye and broke another’s jaw with his bare hands, causing the rest to scatter.
In a Sky Sports documentary in 2015, Pearson claimed: “There were five of them – what they do is that one goes for you and the others circle around until one of them can bring you down. What they essentially do is rip the throat out.”
Pearson initially threw himself into a patch of brambles hoping they would leave him alone. But he was forced to defend himself by using his walking poles as they continued to advance. He backed himself against a tree, saying: “I don’t want to get attacked from behind. I was absolutely goosed by this point.”
Old pal Stuart Pearce, who was then Pearson’s boss as part of the England Under-21s setup, even backed up the incredible tale. The former England left-back said: “Every summer [Pearson] used to go away on his own on a walking holiday. One year he went to Transylvania. Got the train and went out to Transylvania and was warned if he goes walking in the mountains there are wolves and bears that type of thing. He got surrounded by a pack of wolves, backed himself up to a hedge to stop them getting behind him and gouged one of their eyes out and broke another’s jaw and managed to get away. He said if they managed to get behind him they would have killed him.”
Peter Crouch even got in on the tale during his Radio 5 Live podcast in 2020 when discussing where footballers and managers normally go on holiday. DJ Chris Stark recounted the story, saying: “I saw this story – and it came from Stuart Pearce, who had Nigel Pearson as his assistant whilst they were at England Under-21s. And this is an amazing story – every summer [Pearson] used to go away on his own on a walking holiday. One year he went to Transylvania and was warned if he goes walking in the mountains that there are wolves and bears. And apparently – and I can imagine Pearson going through this – he got surrounded by a pack of wolves. He backed himself up to a hedge to stop them getting behind him and then he gouged one of their eyes out, broke another wolf’s jaw and then managed to escape.”
In response, Crouch could only muster the words: “That’s incredible.” When asked if he thought Pearson had truly fought with the wolves, Crouch said: “I wouldn’t put it past him… Isn’t it Dracula you have to worry about there? He’s gone on a walking holiday – they advised him not to and he’s done it, got surrounded by wolves… but it sounds mad doesn’t it?”