‘What we need’ - Nigel Pearson on Bristol City’s new signing and if he will play vs West Brom
Nikita Haikan joined the Robins earlier this week on a short-term contract
Haikin was confirmed to have joined the club on Wednesday on a short-term contract until the end of the season after his contract with Bodo/Glimt came to an end. He had been linked with a move to Championship rivals Blackburn Rovers, but a move did not take place, thus allowing him to make the move to Ashton Gate.
City have offloaded two of their three senior goalkeepers this month, Stefan Bajic was sent out on loan to Valenciennes and more recently, club captain Dan Bentley joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on a permanent deal.
Pearson said on the new signing: “He’s come in as competition, he gives us cover, he’s got experience, he’s a good age he’s 27. Nik comes in with a different type of experience and that’s what we need at the moment.
“It'll help us facilitate Dan’s move as well. People get opportunities when they least expect them. He’s a goalkeeper that was looked at in the summer as well it’s just something that we are able to move on.”
Haikin kept 42 clean sheets in 121 matches for The Yellow Horde and has eight Champions League qualifying appearances to his name.
Pearson revealed his first impressions of the goalkeeper and insisted that just because the deal is until the end of the season, it doesn’t mean the Russian shot-stopper’s stay in the West Country could be extended if he impresses.
“Goalkeeping’s not really my bag, but he’s a very likeable person,” he said. “He’s got experience. He’s here to try and earn a longer-term contract. Because we’ve turned the deal around quickly, it’s initially a short-term deal, but if he does well and Max (O’Leary) continues to play at the standard that he has then we will see what the future brings.
“I think it’s always to try and stretch players, every player at this football club whether their future’s here or not, they’re playing for a contract somewhere and that’s the bottom line.”
O’Leary has been the Robins’ first choice in net since mid-October, and has featured in all of his sides last 17 matches in all competitions.
The Irishman’s improved distribution and ability to play out from the back has been clear to see this campaign, when the manager was asked whether those traits were key in looking at Haikin, he replied: “Partially yes, but really it’s more about experience. I think for Max O’Leary this has been a really good season for him. He broke into the side last year for about a dozen games maybe, and he's at an age now where he feels he's ready to take the number one mantle.”
O’Leary’s performances saw Bentley and Bajic get no first-team action for large parts of this season, but Pearson was keen to remind the 26-year-old that he must keep his standards high.
“He’s going to have to finish the season well,” he said. “Just because Dan’s left now, he can't get cosy, he can't get comfortable, you're always playing for your future. We have some good experience on the bench, but it’s still a very important second half of the season for max now, so we’ll see how that develops.”
The Robins will face West Bromwich Albion in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Ashton Gate on Saturday, and when quizzed on whether Haikin could make his debut for the club against the Baggies, the manager said: “I think you’ve seen in recent weeks that we've tried to keep our strongest side out there really. I want to try and win the game.
“To win the game and beat West Brom we’re gonna need a strong performance so there’s not gonna be many changes, if any.”