In what will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most farcical moments to ever grace the Premier League, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was sent off at the weekend for ‘headbutting’ Hull City midfielder David Meyler.
Obviously, the butting motion was by no means as aggressive or furtive as it sounds, but through a sense of moral dignity, the old adage of responsibility as a role model and the sheer ridiculous of the exaggerated episode, the British press have been on point to match the hyperbole in their own condemnations of the Magpies manager, who has informed the public he’ll be taking a backseat in the dugout during future endeavours.
The Telegraph’s Henry Winter has called for Pardew to be banned from all Premier League stadia -not just pitch-sides – until the end of the season, Mirror Football has labelled Newcastle as a ‘club gone rogue’ for not wielding the sacking axe, and the Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel has made the Newcastle gaffer out to be some sort of uncontrollable, deep-lying-anger-driven menace that should have been dealt with by the FA some time ago.
But for me, Alan Pardew is and will always be football’s answer to Alan Partridge; oozing obnoxiousness from every orifice, politically plastic during his interactions with the British press and dependant on such re-hashed, re-worded, jumbled-up sound-bites as ‘it was handbags at half mast’ to successfully communicate with other humans.
Like the Steve Coogan character however, underneath it all is a layer almost sinister of desperation, a sense of dim-witted pride and an awkward over-eagerness to be ‘one of the lads’ and part of the main event, rather than a clumsy, uncool outsider. This is what causes the former West Ham, Charlton and Southampton boss to venture towards such reactionary rashness when he’s manning the technical area.
The incident at the weekend is perhaps the most supportive evidence to that theory. Pardew was never an aggressive player – he was a hardworking, goalscoring midfielder – but physically confronted by a player almost three decades his junior, with a good four inches of height on him, the Newcastle boss felt compelled to beat his chest and brunt his teeth – or rather his forehead – in an anxious showing of masculinity.
Every Premier League manager is an egoist at heart; non-arrogant, non-egomaniacs need not apply. But what makes Pardew’s touchline outbursts so extreme, and resultantly so comical, is that the Magpies manager simply doesn’t fit the image.
To put it bluntly, the 52 year-old’s physique and demeanour, combined with his unwarranted cockiness and by no means exceptional managerial track record, often portrays him as one of life’s losers, perfectly fitting for one of Coogan’s cringingly macabre creations. The backdrop of St. James’s Park, ruled by a regime that has hired public relations disaster Joe Kinnear twice and sees Wonga.com as a appropriate sponsor certainly contributes to Pardew’s comedic effect.
Let us not forget that this is by no means his first case of over-eagerness. In a bid to get a laugh out of Alan Hansen, and presumably the male viewing public, the then-unemployed Pardew described a Michael Essien tackle as an ‘absolute rape’ live on Match of the Day 2 back in 2009.
Prior to that, Pardew was recorded on film in 2007 referring to West Ham fans as ‘w***ers’ who ‘should all f** off’, ridiculously enough during a media training session at Upton Park. That’s the kind of situational timing and inappropriateness that would have easily made the final cut of Alpha Papa if it had been a product of Coogan’s imagination, rather than Pardew’s reality.
And earlier this season, complaints were made by the public after the Newcastle manager was heard calling Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini a ‘f**king old c**t’, in one of a series of touchline incidents throughout his career that have had to be brought to the FA’s attention. Somewhere in between, 2012 to be precise, Pardew was banned for two matches after pushing over a linesman, which he later self-described as ‘ridiculous’ behaviour.
Then there’s this curious tale courtesy of West Ham photographer Steve Bacon, via Mirror Football’s David Kidd; “When the gaffer sat down with his backroom team, deciding on his order, he asked fitness coach Tony Strudwick what he was getting – and told him he’d take it if it looked good. When the meals arrived, Pards said to Tony, ‘Yours looks better, I’m having that,’ and swapped plates. I told him you can’t just take someone else’s dinner. Pards retorted, ‘When you’re the king, you can do anything.”
These episodes blur the line between repulsive human being and hilarious poor-taste, in near perfect Partridge parody, but like the Coogan alter-ego, the cathartic yet desperate nature of Pardew’s character, loosely veiled by his egotism, leaves one feeling compelled to forgive, like a puppy causing accidental household mischief through uncontrollable enthusiasm and excitement.
No doubt, the Newcastle manager’s actions will land him with a hefty fine and suspension at the hands of the Football Association. We already know his case will be treated as ‘non-standard’, and based on that premise, in addition to the conventions set by the governing body’s recent handling of Paul Ince and Nottingham Forest’s Billy Davies, Pardew’s incoming ban will be in excess of five matches.
But the question remains whether or not he can actually change his ways. The FA’s slap on the wrist will certainly force the Magpies man to keep his behaviour in check in the near future, but Pardew’s attraction towards the ridiculous, as if his instinct for the inappropriate takes over his entire body and being, is a flaw of personality, and they are the hardest to overcome.
It may not materialise in the form of another touchline episode, but knowing me, knowing you, Alan Pardew, I’m sure another outburst that blends comedy with sheer unprofessionalism lies just around the corner.