As an exile who works in London, the past 12 months have allowed me to mock the Crystal Palace fans I work with (usually accompanied by the odd West Ham fan) that they will have a good 2016 and then everything will fall apart.
This is what Alan Pardew does. He’ll bring in a load of fresh foreign players, disregard youth and flair, find a Plan A which works, and keep going until it stops and they drop like a lead balloon.
It was clear at Newcastle, or so it seemed, that he was willing to sacrifice flair (Ben Arfa, Cabaye) or youth with potential (Bigi, Vuckic, Streete) and focus on supporting the production line approach favoured by the club. I always felt that Pardew was one of the main culprits in this and that despite the protests he made around Cabaye and Ba, that the reality was he had no interest in the long-term (apart from cashing in on his 8 year contract).
The current project at Selhurst Park though, suggests that this is not the full story as they attempt their own small scale Entertainers project. While I don’t see Alan Pardew having the ability to pull it off, the change in tack must be disturbing for us Newcastle fans.
The Palace team has a young base backed up with solid experience at the back and in midfield (mainly through Cabaye). They are being smart in the transfer market, looking to use loans (not very well with Bamford, but at least looking), and trying to unearth good English talent.
Having just signed Randall Williams from the 9th tier, they are also looking at signing a 19 year old called Kane Smith from my local team Hitchin, a player in his first full season but who is getting rave reviews in non-league. These are two players who their scouting network have unearthed, they have brought in on trial and are willing to give a chance to. This is something I never thought I would see from a Pardew team.
The key to this for me is that Alan Pardew is getting involved, meeting the players and making them feel wanted. It is not just some process where a scout invites a bunch of players to a trial and there is no connection to the first team. It is the old way of running a football club.
In a period when we are desperate for the short-term fix it is easy to forget our long-term strategy, but what I fail to understand is why we have not been doing this? To be honest finding a player like Kane Smith is not difficult, you just have to read the non-league press, you don’t even need to attend the games to get the leads these days.
Why, when non-league football is so strong in the north east, can our scouts not find this talent? It may be that you have a one in ten strike rate, but that one is worth the investment and effort alone, compared to what we are used to.
The other point is that we continue to look at the Head Coach model (despite the official role of McClaren on the ‘Football Board’) when our position in reality requires us to have a Manager.
We need someone who will connect the different elements of the club and not just run the first team. A leader who will inspire the youth, be involved in the scouting network and have a tactical vision for Newcastle United from top to bottom. Pardew is showing this at Palace and no doubt Chris Houghton has done this at Brighton as well.
I am not defending Alan Pardew, I still hold him responsible for so much of the wrong at Newcastle United, but what he has shown me is that the different structure we have seen discussed in so many articles and on so many chat rooms, can work. The question is, why don’t we do it now? It won’t necessarily change the control the owner has at the top, just the roles of those beneath him.
A change has got to come at some point. While we face our short-term battles it must be the time when our owner looks at where we are in the league, admits that we are not a ‘global football franchise’. Moves back to the old model of football management where the manager runs the club affairs, the club has a connection to the community and success is driven from the city where the club is based, rather than a disconnected network of businesses.
If Crystal Palace can do it then why can’t we?
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