Charmer Alan Pardew Will Not Be Able To Nudge and Wink His Way Out Of This One
Alan Pardew’s reign at Newcastle United has been one of a couple of unpredictable highs, and plenty of demoralising lows.
Pardew joined Newcastle at a time when the club was experiencing a rejuvenation of sorts. Chris Hughton had taken Newcastle back to the Premier League, trouncing opposition in the Championship.
The cloud of despondency and self destruction that had led to relegation appeared to have lifted. Hughton had been backed, brought in his own players and performed reasonably well, only to find himself sacked.
Newcastle fans were mystified, and then left dumbstruck when it was announced that perennial failure and self-glorifier Alan Pardew was to take over. Rumours abounded that Pardew had some secret association with Ashley. Pardew had not long been hounded out of Southampton, another situation surrounded with innuendo. Newcastle fans had low expectations of Pardew. It was thought that he would be a yes man, willing to do Ashley’s bidding with little fuss.
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There was an overriding sense that Pardew was going to be a part of the cockney clique, that he’d have little appreciation for the delicate, incomprehensible sense of ego and hubris that is part and parcel of supporting Newcastle United. However, Pardew was cute- like Brendan Rogers at Liverpool, he realized early on that his best chance of success was to bestow platitudes upon the fans and stoke the myth of Newcastle’s ‘special’ support, promised attacking football, and did his utmost to ingratiate himself on Tyneside. Pardew knew that the job was better than anything he had deserved, and was a chance to rebuild himself and once more become the promising English manager that the West Ham supporting media had billed him as. Some in the media backed him, others raised eyebrows and pointed out his various flaws.
Prophetically, an ESPN interview with Shaka Hislop and Stewart Robson predicted the issues Pardew would eventually face, accurately diagnosing his personality flaws. According to Robson:
“A Massive Ego… I have never been happy with his touchline antics. I’m not sure what he does on the coaching field. I know one or two people who have played under him, and weren’t too impressed… Jobi McAnuff being one of them, said he didn’t enjoy his time at West Ham because of Pardew.
“I just think that he’s got a massive ego. When West Ham were doing poorly he took a step back. When they started to do well, he became very big time and he’s promoted himself more than the team. So, I am not a fan of Pardew, and I think it’s the worst move Newcastle could make. I don’t know how he got the job. He must know someone on the board whose a friend of his.
“Alan Pardew will tell you he tries to play good football; that’s rubbish. He plays long-ball football, it’s very direct, there is no creativity in midfield. He just wants to play route one football… At times he can be a conman.”
Whilst Hislop said:
“It is how he handles these tricky characters in the dressing room, because I didn’t see him have to do it at West Ham. Again, these are players who respected and liked Chris Hughton, and I think that for Mike Ashley, this has not only been a PR disaster, but I worry he has picked the wrong man. I don’t think he’s a liked enough character to handle those lads.”
And, fitting with the unpredictable circus at St James’, it turned out that in the short term, Pardew would do a good job. He finished respectably mid-table in his first season, and successfully cleared out the stalwarts of the players committee who had seemingly undermined Hughton and cost the popular former number 2 his job.
The next year, he was backed in the summer and Newcastle finished 5th, startlingly close to a Champions League place up until the final moments of the season. This would be a high point Alan Pardew would never come close to emulating. In truth, Newcastle at this time were a good side with players who were an unknown quantity. Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and the January signing Papiss Demba Cisse were at times unplayable, winning games on their own.
Despite the success, Newcastle fans were still concerned that we’d struggle badly if we went behind in games, and that there seemed to be little of an overall plan driving us forward. Rather, the options proffered by new scout Graham Carr buoyed Pardew’s Newcastle way above the collective sum of the quality of the team, and its manager. Pardew and his collective were awarded with eye-watering long term deals, receiving an 8 year contract that would hopefully provide consistency and stability. However, consistency and stability would prove to be two epitaphs that you would never be able to assign to the silver fox.
After this, the rot truly set in. The next year Pardew wasn’t backed by his board, and it was suggested that a crop of average youngsters would benefit from being promoted to the senior squad and play European and cup ties. Inevitably, injuries became a massive problem for Pardew, and the youth that had been injected into the squad were simply not good enough. His trust in the youngsters evaporated, and Pardew doubled down on his preference for grafters. Newcastle reached the quarter finals of the Europa league, beaten by eventual finalists Benfica. They didn’t disgrace themselves, but the league form became abject. Pardew lost game after game, taking hammerings and plunging into the relegation zone. He was backed again in January, and Newcastle limped to safety before being thrashed at home by Liverpool. It was a powerful symbol of the change in Pardew’s fortunes. It became clear that when things were going well, Pardew was an adequate custodian. When things went badly, he had very few ideas about how to turn it round.
Pardew was protected from criticism by his 5th placed finish and the attitude of suspicion towards Mike Ashley. Pardew was at pains to apportion shares of the glory to everyone, including the owner, when he finished 5th- whilst at the same time basking in the success as if he really thought he was the architect. Newcastle fans began to see another side to Pardew during the beginning of the bad times. It was a side that West Ham fans and Charlton fans knew all too well. The fanbase began to turn on Pardew, enmity towards Ashely prevented a fullscale revolt. Many decided that the alternative may be worse, and decided to give him time to turn it around.
In the summer after flirting with relegation, Mike Ashley decided that his right hand man, Derek Llambias, was no longer trusted to steer Newcastle’s finances and recruitment. Whilst popular perception dictates that Ashley doesn’t like to spend money, it became apparent that Ashley was prepared to invest the right amounts of money in the right players. The problem was executing the deals. Ashley turned to a trusted source, the perpetually ‘tired and emotional’ proper football man and amateur Walter Mitty, Joe Kinnear. Joe Kinnear declared his appointment himself, in a ramble on a Talksport call in. He embarrassed everyone and everything associated with Newcastle United, spinning yarns about who he could call and what he could get done, making up awards and personal accolades, telling weird stories about Middle Eastern princes.
Kinnear became a handy deflection for Pardew. How could he be expected to succeed when a clown had been parachuted in above him? Pardew went to ground, showed little dissatisfaction and neglected to grumble too seriously. Kinnear conspicuously failed to do the job he was brought in to do, failing to make a permanent first team signing. Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle’s best player, decided he wanted a move, and went on strike before accepting the management’s promises of a transfer in January.
Newcastle began the season positively, winning games. Cabaye was at the heart of everything Newcastle did well. Cheick Tiote had returned to form, and the loan signing of Loic Remy provided the goals that helped Newcastle win games in which they were otherwise ponderous and disorganised. Newcastle recorded their first win at Old Trafford in living memory.
The wheels came off once again in January. Kinnear sold Yohan Cabaye to oil rich PSG for a sum which was considered undervalued by Ashley. Kinnear failed to replace Cabaye, with wild goose hunts for Clement Grenier ending up in failure. A deal was struck in principle for Remy Cabella to arrive in the summer- but Newcastle became the first team in the league to go an entire season without a permanent first team signing. Kinnear’s failure was intolerable, and Ashley pulled the trigger on his southern comrade. Pardew became the focus of attention, the situation requiring him to show fortitude and nous in order to replace Cabaye, the player who had kept him in a job.
Pardew looked to the fans’ favourite, Hatem Ben Arfa. Pardew had never figured out how to use the mercurial Frenchman, and as with most of his successes, Ben Arfa’s good performances had little to do with Pardew’s input. Similarly his many bad games showed an irrelevance towards Pardew’s style or instructions.
Simply put, Alan Pardew would send Hatem Ben Arfa into a game to win it by himself, and would scold him when he failed to do so. Pardew and Ben Arfa allegedly fell out after a miserable game againstt Stoke. Pardew’s gamble of relying on Ben Arfa failed, and Ben Arfa was bombed out to the reserves. Newcastle’s second half of the season was Pardew’s worst run yet. Pardew’s Newcastle became a team who capitulated. It became a regular occurrence to see Newcastle lose by 3 goals or more, and they simply couldn’t score when Loic Remy was unavailable.
Things turned for the worse when Pardew, who has had a history of touchline incidents, went Head to Head with Hull’s David Meyler, a former Sunderland player. Without their manager, Pardew’s team went on a ghastly run, receiving hidings from middling teams and showing no cohesion or attempts at planning to win. Pardew lamented how things may have been different if he’d been on the touchline. He could’ve won us the game, he claimed after one depressing defeat, if only he’d had a chance to shout something from a more preferable location.
Pardew came under serious pressure, eventually to the point whereby he couldn’t leave his technical area mid-match as the abuse began to rain down. Pardew knew he had to be backed in the summer, and played up to the media so that the requisite funds would be disbursed, deflecting the blame from himself. The signings from the previous January, who had helped Newcastle limp to safety, had all regressed.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa in particular showed dreadful form, and Pardew had little patience to give him a run in his preferred position. The gamble was too great- Pardew knew his job was on the line, and reverted once more to grafters and more seemingly solid players.
This pre-season, Pardew has been backed significantly. He wanted more creative, attacking players and he was handed them. Still short of a striker and a centre half, Newcastle are none the less equipped for a reasonable campaign. The emergence of Rolando Aarons has also been unexpected. Despite this, Newcastle have started the season poorly. Commentators throughout the media are finally readying the knives, with Pardew’s bad run at Newcastle extending some 18 months now. In that time he has achieved all kinds of unwanted accolades, has a lower win percentage than the despised Graeme Souness, has fallen out with his best player and failed to show he has the gumption to stop the rot.
He’s blamed everyone and everything for every failing, and has only ever offered a mitigated, shared acknowledgement of his own misdeeds. He’s been handed talented footballers who have won more than he has ever glimpsed in his career as either a manager or a player, and has failed to make any of them a better player. The notable exception to this is Yohan Cabaye, but however much Pardew had to do with his quality is debatable.
The biggest black mark against Pardew at Newcastle is undoubtedly his failure to cope with the pressure of the Tyne Wear derby. In an age where Newcastle are hopelessly short of winning honours, there are only two games in a season that matter. Pardew has a record of one win in seven against a hopeless Sunderland, who have been led by mentalists and charlatans and trounced up and down the country, surviving by the skin of their teeth year after year. If Alan had managed to win even half of these games, his stock would’ve been so much higher. Instead he has ceded the ground to Martin O’Neill, the lunatic and despised Paulo Di Canio, and now the spoiling of Gus Poyet.
So far this year, Alan Pardew is yet to win in three Premier League matches. Nothing has changed from the back end of the prior season. Newcastle still look hopeless at times, weak at the back and toothless upfront. There is precious little invention, desire, excitement or purpose. Talented footballers are regressing, shrinking under the pressure that is following their manager. It is obvious now that Pardew is a dead man walking. It may be only a few weeks but history shows us that Pardew has no means of turning round a bad situation.
The poor form stretches back so far that his 5th place finish is no longer a memory. Instead we’ve begun to associate Pardew with excuses, blame, ignominy, cowardice, failure to live up to potential and outright stupidity. Alan Pardew can now only save himself by winning games, and a candid consideration will tell any right thinking football fan that it is well beyond his capacity to stop the snowballing nihilism that has infected his team.
Pardew, the charmer and canny operator, will not be able to nudge and wink his way out of this one- and he’s going. It is a matter of when, not if. And whilst things could conceivably be worse, with nobody able to predict who Ashley will appoint to replace him when the inevitable happens, I doubt many Newcastle fans will be sad to see him go.
With Alan Pardew at the helm, Newcastle are stuck in a limbo of underachievement and irrelevance. He’s facing down the barrel of a gun, and ultimately his squad do not seem to take to his methods, his instructions, or whatever tactics he’s trying to employ.
The final nail in his coffin will be the injury to Siem De Jong, the man who Pardew has evidently planned his entire campaign around. Out for four months, Newcastle no longer have Pardew’s appointed minister of guile and craft, and subsequently it looks as though goals are to be a rarity.
The vultures are circling, the knives are drawn, and Alan is not a man who would wilfully commit go whilst tied to an 8 year contract. [intlink id=”46971″ type=”post”]He\’s now competing with the despised Sam Allardyce at West Ham as the bookies’ next manager to go[/intlink]. The money is in, the words are printed, and the worm has turned.
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