Mike Ashley Has To Answer The Pardew Question
Another season is coming to a close and once again this club of ours managed to make all the wrong decisions when it mattered and regressed from brushing with Champions League qualification to a close brush with relegation.
Our premier league status is thankfully secured, whether that be because we did enough ourselves, or that other teams were simply worse. Picking up the required amount of points in time to avoid any last day drama or reliance on others. There have simply been a lot of poor teams and a distinct lack of quality across the board.
Once again though we find ourselves at the end of a season which poses questions about the direction of the club. The biggest being; has Ashley learned the lessons from last summer, which panicked him into buying the players in January we should have bought in pre-season, and ultimately needed to secure our place at the top table. Those signings helped achieve just that, where would we be without that positive period at the start of the year?
The squad is quite clearly too small to cope with the demands that were placed on it this season, something which Pardew had pointed out last summer. Many people knew this we were extremely lucky last season to stay largely injury free and a stable team finished fifth.
We have a collection of talented players who can achieve high league finishes but not quite talented to do it whilst not playing at the peak or very near that peak though. Also, clearly not able to compete on 4 fronts, something which is a regular requirement if you aspire to compete at the top end.
If Ashley is serious about wanting Newcastle to be there, especially in the modern game, he simply has to put his hand his pocket and buy 3 or 4 players, the Premier League does not allow time to slowly build a squad. Something I am not confident he will do, given that at least some if not all the January buys were identified as summer transfer targets. Based on what we already know of his thinking, Ashley will see himself out of pocket from the Gouffran signing who would have been free had we waited, but his hand was forced because he had gambled and he had not played a winning hand so he acted to protect his investment.
So we end the season with a bigger squad but still not quite big enough to compete at the level the board purports to want to. The problem is compounded further when you think what a lack of ambition could lead to, which is ultimately players leaving such as Ben Arfa, Cabaye and Krul and one or two others.
I don’t want us to go back down the road of signing any big name player that becomes available but we need to spend a sensible amount of money. Money which a club that has just secured its share of the biggest pay out in football history and attracts average crowds of over 50,000, the 3rd highest in the league, should be able to afford. This may mean having a net spend in negative numbers something which seems anathema to Ashley but the overall balance sheet would still be healthy.
Which brings us Pardew, will Ashley have the confidence to give him money to spend or is this even an issue, given as it seems Pardew has only input into incoming players rather than a controlling stake. Even so, a manager will feel undermined if that input is ignored entirely. It seems he will still be in the dugout next season but is this a wise choice if as surely is the case, this poor season has made the board and more importantly Ashley less confident in his ability. This could very easily lead to a situation where a poor start to the new campaign sees the familiar situation at NUFC where a manager is dismissed a handful of games into a season with the transfer window shut and any new manager’s hands tied.
Unless he is a sensible well thought out appointment based on the players currently at the club, something which we have no track record of being capable of. I am personally in the Pardew camp and whilst I was less firmly in it as this season has worn on, I do think he deserves the chance to start next season with a fully fit squad with some new additions. The doubt in me however says a good manager who will achieve consistent high finishes needs to be able to and should be able to adjust tactics and shuffle players around to cope with the inevitable suspensions and injuries over a season.
Something Pardew seems to have an issue with when he can’t play his preferred formations and style which has been often this season. He either tries to persist with players who are not talented enough to follow the instructions, or he calls on the better players he has available to fill unnatural positions, rather than trust an inexperienced one.
Despite having no real desire to see the manager leave at this point, I think if there is any doubt in the boardroom, the situation needs to be resolved before the players return for pre-season.
Whether it is Pardew or not, the man who takes his seat in the dugout at the start of 2013/14 has to do so with the full confidence and backing of the board and supporters.
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