JONATHAN Woodgate believes Nigel Pearson would have kept Watford in the Premier League last season and described him as a “fantastic leader”.

Pearson was last week appointed Bristol City manager – his first role since being axed by the Hornets with just two games of the 2019-20 campaign remaining.

And Woodgate, who is set to be in the opposite dugout to the 57-year-old at Ashton Gate tomorrow, insists Watford would have stayed up if Pearson remained at the helm.

The Cherries head coach said: “I do have to say, in my view, if he hadn’t left or been sacked by Watford, Watford would have stayed in the (Premier) League.

“In my view I thought he did a really good job there last season and he was unlucky to get sacked but that’s what Watford do.

“They wouldn’t have gone down if he’d stayed in charge. He’s turned Bristol’s fortunes around in the past two games.

“They are a danger, especially on the counter-attack with (Famara) Diedhiou, Nahki Wells and Kasey Palmer.

“They are a tough outfit to play and it’s his first home game. It’s going to be very difficult for us.”

As a player, Pearson helped Middlesbrough gain two promotions before retiring from playing in 1998.

“I used to watch Nigel Pearson at Ayresome Park when I used to go and watch Middlesbrough play. Then at the Riverside,” said Woodgate.

“He was a fantastic leader for Middlesbrough at those times and in his managerial career.”

Cherries are looking to seal back-to-back wins in the Championship, as well as a league double over the Robins having beaten them 1-0 at Vitality Stadium back in October.