Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew has always publicly displayed his appreciation to Mike Ashley for handing him the reins to take over at St. James’ Park in December 2010, but is it time for him to finally start questioning the club’s owner?
Before, we start to lose a sense of perspective, it is correct that Pardew is grateful for the opportunity Ashley gave him to manage a football club capable of challenging in the upper echelons of the Premier League. In a spell not long before he was offered the Newcastle job, he was written off into football’s managerial scrapheap, following an acrimonious sacking at Southampton, who at that time were a League One club, let’s not forget.
It would not have been totally unthinkable that Championship clubs would have turned their nose up at Pardew, with managers holding Premier League experience still being shunned by clubs in the lower leagues, Alan Curbishley a notable example. Nevertheless, it is now time to put this gratitude to one side and for Pardew to firmly demands his owner supports him over the club’s direction.
Newcastle are currently languishing in 12th place in the table, closer to the bottom four than they are the top four and with no magic Carroll type business on the horizon, to fund another set of Graham Carr masterminded transfer coups, the club need their owner to back the manager. Ashley has already started the job that by handing his man a generous 8 year deal, but he now needs to dig deep into his pockets to fund his boss with player arrivals in January. Despite this being true, it is Pardew’s job to convince Ashley that it is necessary to spend in the next transfer window. The club’s supporters would certaintly be hoping that their manager has already started discussing what Newcastle need to bring in with some force. The 51 year old was quick to point out that Rodgers has struggled at times at Liverpool because he was not given the tools to succeed, as the Anfield club were criticised for not bringing in another striker. However, it appears that Magpies boss has suffered from the same problem, but he appears all too willing to ignore the issue.
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The issue may have been magnified, now that Newcastle have failed to win what most fans saw as two winnable fixtures against West Ham and Swansea. The reality is though the team have looked rudderless and out of ideas on several occasions this season with the Europa League clearly taking its toll. A few tweaks in January though, and there is still cause for belief on Tyneside that the long term plan will work. All the foundations for success that Newcastle received credit for building last season have not suddenly crumbled.
The problem lies in the club failing to have significant competition for places and whilst it is the manager’s job to motivate his players, he can only do so much. Even ‘Pardiola’, as he is affectionately called by some fans, is attributable to some of the blame for this season’s struggle to put in a real “performance”. One of the biggest problems has been the club has failed to cope with injuries to key players. This is the nature of football and every side has to contend with injuries, but the paper-thin squad at St. James’s Park has really hampered Pardew’s ability to be able to create a starting XI that is capable of getting anywhere near the 5th place finish of last season. The long term injuries to Ryan Taylor and just recently Yohan Cabaye, means the need to bring in players who can make an instant impact has become all the more pertinent.
Whilst Newcastle fans may have been labelled deluded in the past expecting European football every season, there is a sense of realism these days. They recognise that last season was an unexpected overachievement. However, the feel good factor was based around a hunger and desire that Pardew is currently failing to deliver. The frustration amongst the supporters is that a number of the key ingredients for success remain at the club’s spine, particularly Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba. The issue is that the majority of Newcastle’s established players are showing flashes of their ability with nobody really giving them that drive to push on. Whilst ensuring Demba Ba remains in January is a priority, this next transfer window is not a window where the club need to just focus on just keeping players. If Pardew and the board are going to build upon the positivity of last season, they need to bring in experienced players, who can immediately provide a lift to a team that is currently a little flat.
There are a number of promising young talents, such as Gael Bigirimana, Shane Ferguson and Sammy Ameobi, but even the most optimistic Newcastle fan would have to admit that none of these are yet the complete package, despite showing signs of encouragement in their first team outings this season. There needs to be a decent level of competition in all areas, and it is Pardew’s responsibility to ensure this happens, and at minimum the club need a new striker to give a much needed kick up the backside to Papiss Cisse. This is if including the underwhelming at times Shola Ameobi, instead of him, hasn’t provided a timely reminder that even number 9’s don’t just walk into the team.
Whether Pardew has the bottle to demand Ashley provides the funds to sign the players needed, will tell Newcastle fans all they need to know about their manager’s determination to succeed, or willingness to sit back and take orders.