There’s a saying in project work “On time, to the required spec, or under budget. Which two do you want?” The implication being that projects are easy, so long as you don’t expect too much.

I recently worked on a project in the jungles of Myanmar (Burma) that could be best described as “a bit of an eye opener.” When I arrived on site the project was already over budget, most of the equipment was incorrectly spec’d and with only two months to go to project delivery we were six months behind.

The conversation at the first client meeting went along the lines of “which none do you want?”

Over the last few years we have seen a number of, if we are honest, pretty poor managers passing through SJP.

What have they lacked? Or more precisely what have they actually had?

OK then. What SHOULD they have had to have been successful?

I have always thought of it as just 3 things.

The equipment. Without the right players, backroom staff and support facilities there’s no point in even turning up.

The technical expertise. I’ll clarify this as tactical nous. The ability to analyse the problem  and come up with a solution on match day.

Man Management Skills. Separate from the rest, just the ability to manage and motivate the players and staff.

So what brought this on?

Well – it appears that the natives are restless at Crystal Palace and Alan Pardew has been installed as one of the favourites in the current EPL Sack Race. Apparently the honeymoon period is over and, having spent a fortune during the transfer window Pards’s performance has not been meeting the expectations of, well, anyone really. A couple of recent results have given him a stay of execution, for the time being…

Are we surprised? Not I!

In my book. I have Pardew down as a motivator.

Motivators come in and make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy, which is reflected in an all too brief improvement in performance; players punching above their weight; unexpected levels of performance from teams that realistically should be mid-table at best.

It’s simply belief and a bit of luck. Pardew did it in 2011-2012 but the king has to be Ranieri last season with Leicester City.

The trouble with motivators is that their influence is transient and before you know it you are back where you started, which is not a good thing as your motivator was invariably brought in because you were in trouble.

Glenn Roeder and Chris Hughton were motivators. This explains why they appeared to do well at first but it was a fleeting respite from the underlying issues – an absence of one of those other two aforementioned requirements.

newcastle manager

Motivators are brought in when the team is in need of a shakeup. Usually when the manager has lost the dressing room.

Let me plot the course of the last few years at SJP.

Following a Shearer focussed brain fart of monumental proportions, Ruud Gullit lost the dressing room, the plot completely and subsequently his job.

The replacement Newcastle Manager was an exceptional motivator by the name of Bobby Robson. But Sir Bobby was not just a motivator – he was in possession of the full set, something sadly lacking from his successors.

After the Robson sacking debacle we ended up with Souness, a legend in his own mind who was less of a motivator, more an aggravator. Souness’s inability to man manage is said to have been responsible for Craig Bellamy, Lauren Robert, Olivier Bernard and Jermain Jenas all moving on prematurely – talent which at the time we could ill afford to lose. Lost the dressing room? Sent it packing more like!

To try to find the dressing room again, in comes another motivator in the form of Glenn Roeder. Typical motivator good start, finishing 7th with Shearer as assistant manager, and even a trophy to follow (OK – I know it wasn’t areal one, but beggars can’t be choosers)  but then the motivators curse kicked in again as warm and fuzzy faded and we were back looking up at the competition as usual.

After a very brief fling with Allardyce and Keegan (again) the planets fell out of alignment big time, and as an intellectual ice age enveloped the North East we somehow ended up with Joe Kinnear running things.

Remember the project management analogy when we kicked off? Joe Kinnear is the Newcastle United equivalent of my Myanmar project. Management requirements? Pick any none.

Time for another motivator. Chris Hughton.

Hughton has to be viewed in a slightly different light. He took over a team which had just experienced the equivalent of being walked into the North Sea by King Canute. “Don’t worry boys! I’ll sort those waves out!”

Nevertheless – a team that should never have gone down was somehow in the second tier of English football, with a wage bill that could have paid the combined salaries of half the teams with them in the league.

We were always going to go straight back up. We would have bounced straight back up with Kinnear’s milkman in charge.

Yes, Hughton did bring us straight back up but I suspect his record since, vindicates both my accusations of motivationalisation (-ismistics?) and the decision by Ashley to replace him with a more experienced manager for survival in the Prem. Hughton by nature is a motivator, and as such his inspirational half-life had probably expired by the time he got us promoted.

In comes Pardew. A little bit of rearrangement, a shedload of Euros spent and a place in Europe follows, but the elation is short lived as we again drift into a dearth of anything resembling ability, effort and the will to live.

The Curse of the Motivator – coming to a stadium near you!

Are we getting carried away with Rafa’s brilliance just a little prematurely?

I don’t think so.

Steven Gerrard recently stated that from a tactical viewpoint Rafa Benitez is the best manager he has ever worked with.

If we have lacked anything recently it has to be tactical decency. I was going to say tactical brilliance but who am I kidding? Decency covers what has been missing.

I have no doubt we will be back up there with the big boys come next August.

The question will then be, will Ashley be willing to finance a serious charge on the Prem, or will he have another cardboard cut out lined up to replace Rafa?

Anybody for Warnock or Pulis?

Travel Posters - Tyneside Prints