“Pardew is a Muppet.” “Pardew Out, Ashley Out.”
It would be impossible to attend a Newcastle United fixture right now without noticing a banner or hearing a chant echoing these sentiments. The Magpies defeat at home to Swansea City was the club’s fifth consecutive loss in what has so proven to be a miserable calendar year.
In the Premier League form table since the New Year, Newcastle sit in nineteenth position with just four victories from their last seventeen matches. Any hope of a rousing run in the FA Cup was extinguished at the earliest possible stage at home by Cardiff City, the only team which find themselves below the Magpies in the form table.
For an ill-advised onlooker, the club’s current position of ninth in the league wouldn’t justify such a fan backlash, especially when relegation was so narrowly avoided in the previous campaign. But with so many of the Toon Army so clearly disgruntled with events on Tyneside, is it getting to the point where something has got to give?
Journalists from local media outlets such as the Evening Chronicle have been banned for portraying the club in an allegedly unfair manner. Alan Pardew’s decision to apportion some blame to these publications for his side’s recent performances led the Sunday Sun to mockingly publish a distinctly damning “apology.”
With Joe Kinnear no longer present to draw the ire of the Geordie faithful and Mike Ashley retreating further into the background, the manager is now exposed to the full brunt of the fans’ resentment.
Jamie Carragher recently defended the Newcastle manager in his column and with some justification. Undermined by a clueless Director of Football and a Chairman that is positively appalled by the prospect of unnecessarily investing in his side, Pardew had performed admirably in his role to have the club in touch with the European spots at Christmas.
But the downturn since is simply inexcusable.
Fans have quite rightly grown sick and tired of the constant excuses and the insipid performances which has seen the club limp towards the season’s finish. A blunt attack and a porous defence has meant that the club have been subjected to a number of humiliations in such a short space of time. A third consecutive derby defeat to Sunderland epitomised a side absent of any real desire or passion.
Even with the sale of Yohan Cabaye and a number of injuries, Pardew cannot escape the blame. At a time when his side have lacked any creative ideas, the manager has failed to bring the best out of his flair players. The likes of Hatem Ben Arfa and Sylvain Marveaux remain out in the cold amid rumours that Pardew has lost control of his dressing room. The 2012 LMA Manager of the Year has his shortcomings and these flaws have been brutally exposed since the turn of the year.
But where the “Pardew Out” brigade always falters is when attention turns to identifying a successor. Pardew certainly isn’t the best manager in the world but it is difficult to name a realistic candidate who could succeed where he has failed. Tony Pulis is the latest name linked to the hot seat on the basis of his revival of Crystal Palace, but Sam Allardyce’s ill-fated spell suggests that the Welshman’s trademark approach would not last long on Tyneside. After his somewhat surprising dismissal at Swansea, Michael Laudrup’s name was another thrown into the ring.
But why would any upcoming manager be realistically willing to take the role on?
Under the current regime headed by Mike Ashley, the prospect of this slumbering giant being awoken to challenge for silverware once again remains a distant fantasy. Ambition is a dirty word and the soul of the club has been traded for the balancing of the books. In a time of ludicrous excess in football, a commitment to financial fair play is admirable and should not be wholly condemned. But unfortunately for Newcastle, medals will not be awarded come May for impressive financial statistics. Just ask Arsenal fans about that.
Pardew has failed to inspire and the players haven’t delivered all too often in the New Year. But with Ashley’s objective of mid-table mediocrity essentially secured by the New Year, what was left to play for? In the owner’s eyes, the club could successfully afford to cash in on Cabaye and yet still earn the riches that participating in the Premier League next season will bring.
As long as Ashley remains, this is the grim reality for the Toon Army. Without any prospective buyers, Newcastle will continue to operate in a similar fashion for the foreseeable future. Money will continue to line his pockets whilst the club will merely play to retain a spot in the most lucrative footballing division in the world. Players will continue to view St. James’ Park as a shop window, an opportunity to impress and earn a transfer to a club where ambition isn’t actively repressed.
In the eyes of so many of the Toon Army, something simply has to give and it has done for a while now. But unfortunately for them, the potential for change remains unlikely.