In the aftermath of that headbutt, many fans, ex-footballers and pundits took to various platforms to express the view that Alan Pardew’s position as manager of Newcastle United has become untenable.
With a seven match ban and fines totalling £160,000, Pardew has retained his position at the Magpies despite the intense media scrutiny. But could this latest incident convince Newcastle owner Mike Ashley that the club could do without such a controversial manager?
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker tweeted that it was “inexcusable for a manager.” Graeme Souness stated that Pardew had committed a “sackable offence.”
The headbutt on David Meyler was just the latest in a long line of indiscretions that Pardew has committed on the touchline. After this latest incident, many have quite rightly asked how the Newcastle manager can maintain the respect of his players and discipline them in future.
For example, Loic Remy’s recent dismissal at Norwich City was a rush of blood that deprived the Magpies of their leading goalscorer for three matches. From this point forward however, how can Pardew possibly discipline any of his players for incidents like this when he so publicly failed to control his own temper?
With the infamous eight year contract, many have also suggested that this incident would have provided Ashley with the perfect opportunity to remove the manager without paying substantial compensation.
But as the Newcastle owner demonstrated with Joe Kinnear, it takes a heck of a lot of high profile errors before your position comes under threat.
As Director of Football, Kinnear publicly demonstrated his stupidity by mispronouncing Yohan Cabaye’s surname as “Kebabs” before astoundingly claiming that he was “more intelligent” than the club’s fanbase.
How that didn’t make the former Wimbledon manager’s position untenable, we will never know.
After such boisterous claims that he could “open the door to any manager in the world”, two transfer windows with no permanent signings went by before Kinnear finally “resigned” from the position.
What this whole unfortunate episode shows us is that Ashley is not easily moved into removing one of his employees, even in the face of such public pressure.
Especially one that currently has the club sitting in eighth place in the Premier League.
The point that a headbutt in any other workplace would have resulted in an instant dismissal has been raised by many on social media, including football “expert” Piers Morgan.
But when has modern football ever been comparable to any other workplace?
By the same token, Liverpool should have sacked Luis Suarez for any one of his numerous offences. Raheem Sterling too, for jabbing a finger into the chest of his superior, in this case referee Howard Webb. Whilst it is valid to question whether Pardew can realistically control his dressing room from this point forth, the real issue if Ashley chose to dismiss his manager would have been finding a replacement.
The club’s stringent financial model is publicly known and it would prove very challenging to convince any manager of ambition and merit that Newcastle United is a project worth taking on.
Despite his aforementioned flaws and other tactical failings, Pardew has done a respectable job on Tyneside in difficult circumstances. Hamstrung by an owner that is evidently satisfied by the revenue of mid-table finishes, Pardew has done well to deliver a 5th place finish and a Europa League Quarter Final so far in his time at the club.
Of course, there have been lows to these highs of his reign. Last season’s brush with relegation and a horrendous record against Sunderland has exposed his limitations as a manager.
But realistically, who better could actually be convinced to join the club whilst it remains under Ashley’s ownership?
With an owner that consistently takes actions to seemingly alienate himself further from the club’s fans and aided only by Graham Carr’s eye for a foreign bargain, Pardew has delivered a decent return from his role as manager.
While the ban may have tempted Ashley to pull the trigger, the reality of the matter is that as long as he remains owner of Newcastle United, the club are not really in a position to benefit from removing Pardew.
He is definitely not the best manager in the world. His conduct on the touchlines leaves a lot to be desired, and a victory against Sunderland is certainly long overdue.
But unless Ashley acquires some ambition for the club from somewhere or moves on from Tyneside, Newcastle can’t really afford to do without Pardew.