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What Alan Pardew Must Learn From George Costanza

6 years ago
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The Opposite – what Alan Pardew must learn from George Costanza

“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”

– Jerry Seinfeld

It is the typical day, eating the same salad and performing the same failed attempts at connecting with beautiful women. Then, suddenly, something happens. Instead of fantasising about a made-up career as a marine biologist, or tell stories about his successful alter ego Art Vandelay, George Costanza (a character in US sitcom Seinfeld) stops listening to his instincts.

No more lies, no more gut-feeling. The effects are remarkable. Women take to him. His job situation changes dramatically and he is handed an important role with the New York Yankees after revealing his true feelings about the people in charge. He says yes when he wants to say no. He turns left when his instincts tell him to turn right. Subsequently, everything turns for the better when he ignores what his mind is telling him to do.

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During 2013 and 2014, Newcastle United have successfully and consciously managed to downgrade itself in the English football establishment. We look back at two seasons in which helpless performances and defeats have been topped by an outspoken and unquestionable lack of ambition. In May, Matthew Anderson wrote an outstanding article on this site that depicted and pinpointed the mechanisms that are central to Alan Pardew’s role within the club. His attempts at lowering and eventually eliminate all expectation of entertainment echoes the sentiments of the club that pays him. Expectation leads to disappointment and frustration, they say, portraying the damning philosophy of an institution that used to be known for something radically different.

The protests that occurred in the home game against Cardiff City shook the club. When people went to Anfield the following weekend, confiscation of banners was a measure instigated by governing powers who were worried at the time. More media coverage of the widespread dissatisfaction with Pardew would provoke even more questions regarding his bulletproof reign. It would also pull the media analysis closer to the core issues with Mike Ashley’s ownership, where harming of Sports Direct’s brand threatens to linger in the horizon. Something had to be done, they felt.

Instead of maintaining the recruitment policy communicated by Lee Charnley in the latest fans-forum notes (one or two players every calendar year), the club chose to circulate and rearrange its squad of “purples” and whatever other nonsensical things they use to describe players nowadays. Signing the amount of new players that have been signed this summer is another way of redirecting blame from the manager onto the players. It simply cannot be his fault.

Selling Mathieu Debuchy to Arsenal, was a way of financing the necessary shake-up. In 2014, Newcastle have sold players for what is reported to be over£ 30m, and bought players to a very similar amount, if not less. At the same time, clubs of similar stature, sometimes smaller, appear to be able to dig deeper and build in a more purposeful manner. Everton’s acquisition of Romelu Lukaku will be an uncomfortable event to explain for the ever-important PR team at St James’ Park. It is a signing that contradicts their explanation of Newcastle United’s inability to compete in the transfer market.

Lukaku showing Everton’s ambition?

The reinvestment, player-trading or circulation, call it whatever you want, is always going to be necessary as long as the official-shoving, swearing and head-butting man on our touchline is allowed to keep adjusting Newcastle United to his own purpose of just staying in the job. The squad that lost practically every game during the spring of 2014 would have entered into the new season with relegation not only a possibility, but rather a near certainty. Pardew was in urgent need of new toys, because that is how he gets by.

With new influences and players not yet schooled into his narcoleptic idea of football, results have come. Undefeated with Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba in 2011, the dream-like period of Papiss Cissé scoring from every angle in 2012, Moussa Sissoko’s vital introduction in February 2013 or Loïc Rémy and the impressive run of results that followed his arrival in the autumn of that same year. If we were to witness a similar period by the start of this season, it would not come as a surprise.

So even if it is desirable, an immediate wave of new protests is therefore not necessarily what awaits. From the club’s point of view, the summer came at the perfect time of asking and the new players will offer new hope to many supporters. There will be an impression that the club have reacted to the previous two years with actual investment. There will be a falsely painted picture of ambition.

For that reason, I find it hard to derive any greater joy from this summer’s transfer dealings, however shrewd signings Siem De Jong or Rémy Cabella may seem to be. The same applies to the suggestion that we are still looking to add players in the form of one or two strikers. New tools will not prevent this man from being all fingers and thumbs. The initial charade will always blow over.

“It’s all happening because I’m completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgement I’ve ever had.”

– George Costanza

With a renewed vote of confidence from the board, we are destined for another chapter in the insipid tale of ‘Alan on Tyneside’. As there is already a strong suggestion about how it will unfold, I look for hope in the mad mind of George Costanza.

A miraculous transformation that turn every no into yes, right into left and ultimately makes Newcastle enjoyable again. In other words, I stand by no other hope than the prospect of turning everything we have come to know about Alan Pardew into distant memory. Every inclination to form a ten-man human shield in front of Tim Krul because we’ve fluked a goal, is translated into a willingness to go for another one.

Every left-back coming on as an inside-right forward is overlooked for 30 minutes of Adam Armstrong. Jack Colback as a left-winger remains a bad idea while Hatem Ben Arfa returns to flourish.

It feels more realistic than hoping for actual change. We are stuck with him because actual change would signal ambition and trigger hope of better football and better times. Actual change would create expectation, the last thing we want at a club where fresh ingredients have been bought to keep the chef from drowning in his own soup.

You can follow the author on Twitter @noabachner

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