In Toon Today: Crystal Palace: I just wanted to say good luck, we’re all counting on you.

Who Manages Them: 

Alan Pardew, back home at Palace for a season and a half since leaving NUFC in the capable hands of Lee Charnley and John Carver.

Pardew has done at Palace what he did at most of his previous clubs; taken over, made a good impression, stabilised the club by making sensible decisions, gained some plaudits, got cocky and mucked it up and probably the only things that have saved his thick skin in 2016 have been an FA Cup Final appearance and Palace being in the middle of a boardroom takeover.

Initially, his Palace team played with width and pace, when he added Cabaye to the team they played with some skill as well, then something happened and Palace fell apart. What probably happened was that Pardew started  getting involved in tactics. It’s hard to believe that only a few months ago Chelsea, England and Manyoo fans were championing the London lad as their next gaffer. Pardew at Manyoo eh?

Is it the right time for me to say that “I’d love it” if he went there? Not that any of this idle banter is personal of course, I never liked him as manager of Newcastle, or particularly with the persona he presented here, but I don’t wish him any ill, I don’t wish anything at all about him, he’s just another returning ex-Manager respectfully sitting somewhere between canny fella Chris Hughton and absolute tosspot Graeme Souness.

Likewise, Pardew himself is keen to stay friendly ahead of his return, possibly fearful of a barrage of abuse, saying yesterday:

 “Of course I want them to stay up. A lot of the players are close to me there. I’m desperate for them to stay up.”

Cheers Alan. We’re desperate to stay up too but I still agree with the ‘Sack Pardew’ people when they say that no matter what has happened since AP left, we should still celebrate him leaving, he was “never the right person” to manage NUFC.

Just because the club decided to replace him with someone who was even worse, then someone who was even worse than that, doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy to see the back of him. Jonathan Pearce on the BBC has become the latest champion of the “Newcastle would not be in this predicament if Pardew had stayed” line and while it is probably true, we would never have been much better and we would never have had the ambition to become better.

Alan Pardew leaving Newcastle was the first step on the road to recovery, even if the next two steps were backwards. Perhaps the most succinct summing up of Pardew was delivered by the Jonas Gutierrez tribunal verdict, it was almost a summation of Pardew’s reign at SJP:

The tribunal commented that Pardew’s evidence was delivered in a “confident, convincing and articulate way” but was less well received “in relation to a crucial conversation with the player in November or December 2014, when his future was discussed. Ultimately, on the balance of probabilities and taking into account our assessment of the respective credibility of the claimant and Mr Pardew, we preferred the evidence of the claimant.”

Yes, he talks a load of bollocks does Alan, but he doesn’t let it bother him.

newcastle v crystal palace

Alan Pardew: Confident, convincing, articulate, but wrong.’

 Who Have They Signed?       

Apart from £3.6million goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, signed from QPR in the summer, all of Palace’s new players should be involved today. I don’t know what’s happened to McCarthy but having seen the bloke who is in goal, McCarthy must be absolute rubbish.

Wayne Hennessey, the current keeper, was voted Aston Villa’s player of the year by one Villa fan, his mistake gifting Villa 3 of their 16 points, the fan commenting that no Villa player had single-handedly won his team 3 points during the rest of the season.

So apart from that £3.6million well spent, the Eagles main signings have been up front, free transfer Bakary Sako from Wolves, £7.5million ex-Mackem Connor Wickham and free transfer Emmanuel Adebayor. We know all about Wickham from his time down the dark road, his missing Pug dog which he advertised in the Chronicle and that 17.5k 15-litre gold bottle of Armand de Brignac bubbly that him and his mates drank in Marbella when the Mackems escaped relegation last year, or the year before perhaps, their relegation struggles all roll into one after a while. Since moving to Palace, the 23 year old has been hit and miss, the high points including the semi-final winner last week at Wembley, the low points being that he’s a decent player and should be doing much better than he is week in week out.

newcastle v crystal palace

Connor Wickham: Man of the people

If Wickham doesn’t play today then Emmanuel Adebayor probably will. Adebayor was a late January signing until the end of the season on freedom of contract, having been released from his contract by Spurs in September of the previous year. Adebayor is a complete anomaly, or a complete something at least.

He’s played nearly 500 games for the likes of Monaco, Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Spurs and scored over 200 goals including the ones for Togo, yet no one wanted him when he was punted from Spurs. If you think he sat around playing FIFA16 all winter while Man City and Spurs split his reported £190K weekly pay packet, you are wrong. His Togo boss Tom Saintfiet claimed:

“He loves football so he played every day with friends, ex professionals, current professionals, players based in Europe who returned for a holiday, he played with his friends here, local football, street football – these were pitches without much grass, a little bit bumpy. Football is his passion and he loves the game. It’s not about the stadium or the pitch it’s about the love of touching that ball and kicking it around. I think there are not many players at this moment who are more hungry to prove something than him.”

That “hunger” may come from his early struggle in life. Supposedly Adebayor could not walk for the first four years of his life. According to the web his mother took young Manu around Africa looking for a cure. Adebayor then spoke about his ‘miracle’ saying:

“… I was in the church laying down and, around nine or ten o’clock on the Sunday morning, I could hear children playing outside. Suddenly somebody kicked a ball into the church. And the first person to stand up and run was me, because I wanted to get that ball.”

Only 28 years later he couldn’t even be bothered to get off the settee for a couple of hundred grand a week. How quickly they forget the miracles.

Bakary Sako might play as well, first choice Wilfried Zaha is rated 50-50 with an injury. Sako said this week that he saw these games as a way to show what he could do and force his way into the Cup Final team, which is a balance to the Fat Sam peddled rubbish that Palace will already have both eyes on the May Wembley date. Sako also said:

“It`s surprising what`s happened with Newcastle, they have a really good team and some really good players but sometimes if you don`t play as a team this is what happens.”

We should have made him manager last summer. He makes more sense in that sentence than McClaren did in 9 months.

Who Have We Seen before?

The Eagles’ biggest signing of the summer was ex-Mag Yohan Cabaye.

The talented midfielder has been up and down since signing for £10.4 million from PSG in the summer, perhaps a hangover from getting his dream move back to France from Newcastle, only to find he wasn’t as good as he was in his dreams.

Cabaye was in Toon for two and a half seasons and played 93 times for us, signed as a French league winner from Lille for £4million, he was the signing which catapulted Graham Carr into Mike Ashley’s inner rectum and showed Ashley his golden transfer ticket: buy them cheap, sell them expensive, build a team based on prospective individual worth, not current collective spirit.

On the whole Cabaye played well for us and was well-liked, he formed a midfield partnership with Cheick Tiote that put fear into the hearts of the opposition, went toe to toe with the likes of Arsenal and Manyoo and won. On the eve of the 2013-14 season Arsenal bid for Cabaye in a move which unsettled the player and the team and led to Cabaye refusing to play for the next two games in order to force a move, a move which took 4 months to happen, eventually to PSG, eventually for twice what Arsenal had offered.

That he went was understandable, we all knew that, that we failed to source a replacement in those 4 months, even a young player who was going to grow into that role, showed us that Graham Carr was more profit than prophet.

The only good thing to come out of Cabaye’s sale for us was that it cost Joe Kinnear his job. Ashley was furious with it all, not because we didn’t replace the Frenchmen, oh no, only because Kinnear should have made more money out of the deal. NUFC still hadn’t replaced Cabaye when he became available again a year and a half later, that we didn’t try and replace him then was equally as disappointing as not replacing him when we sold him. That we replaced him this January looks like it was way too late.

 newcastle v crystal palace 

Cabaye: “Quite literally no one else wanted me, so I have to wear this.”

Are We Going To Win:

So are Palace already concentrating on the FA Cup Final or are they champing at the bit to finish strongly?

Well, even if they take this game as lightly as Swansea did, the Swans still out-passed us for the first 20 minutes and missed three great chances in 10 second half minutes which could have seen us dead and buried.

To win today, we have to play flat out for the full game. As Rafa Benitez rightly said, it is no good trying to second-guess the opposition, we have to concentrate on our own game. The players are trying harder now and that is being reflected off the pitch with more support coming from the stands and this united front might be enough to beat Palace.

In defence, concentration will be most important, although Wickham and Adebayor are lazy and inconsistent, they can both play and are ably assisted by the excellent Bolasie in a more central role and pace out wide, whoever plays in those positions. It is probably in attack that we are likely to see most joy, Palace look shaky in defence and from set plays with a keeper who looks like he’s waiting to make a mistake. There are goals to be had in this game for us whoever plays up front.

Rafa also said it is more about the players than it is about Managers or mind-games and that is just as well for Palace. If it took a while for NUFC to replace Cabaye in midfield, it has taken even longer to bring in a coach who can rival our best.

Benitez may not be able to bring back the days of the Entertainers but we all know that if the Spaniard stays In Toon for as long as Alan Pardew did then he’ll leave us in a much better state than Pardew did.

“I’d love it if we beat them?” Yes, but not because it is ‘them’, or even ‘him’, this time it is because it is us.

Howay The Lads.