Not long ago, Alan Pardew was being heralded as the next England manager, the natural and most obvious successor to Roy Hodgson should the Three Lions disappoint as usual during the summer’s European Championships.
Back then, it was impossible to ignore a sensational 2015, the year of the Pardew, that had seen the 54-year-old rise like a phoenix from the fires of Tyneside hatred to record the third-most wins of any Premier League manager, become the first ever Premier League manager to finish in the top half after taking over a club in the relegation zone and accumulate the highest win percentage – an impressive 53.49% – of any gaffer to reside over Crystal Palace for at least forty games.
Indeed, Pardew loves winning. His overall career return is 42.6% – certainly not to be sniffed at considering he’s suffered relegation from the Premier League twice and has never worked with a club who’d expect to finish in the top six. To give some perspective, Sam Allardyce’s career win rate is 39%, Mark Hughes’ is 40%, Ronald Koeman’s with Southampton is 45.7%, Mauricio Pochettino’s with Tottenham is 51.5% and Roy Hodgson’s eclectic spells throughout world football have bore 42%.
Yet, there is a dark side to Pardew, a Hyde to his Jekyll, that has reared its ugly head repeatedly throughout all of his spells in the Premier League, starting with West Ham and finishing with the Eagles. When Pardew isn’t winning, he’s losing – and by cataclysmic proportions.
Amid a twelve game run that has seen them plummet from fifth to 15th place in the Premier League, Palace have lost eight and drawn four, including a five-match stretch without a single point, but that is nothing new for Pardew. Indeed, the grey-haired gaffer has achieved that harrowing feat of five-game famine a record-breaking three times in the Premier League with three separate clubs, also doing so at West Ham in 2006 and Newcastle in 2014.
It seems expedient draws simply aren’t the former midfielder’s wheelhouse. Throughout his career, only 23.5% of his games have ended in a point apiece, including a division-lowest six with Crystal Palace this season. Likewise, during four years on Tyneside, Pardew’s Magpies drew just 34 of their 155 league games, nine of which came during his first 22 games alone, amassing the second lowest draws throughout the Premier League in 2012/13, the lowest in 2013/14 and the third-lowest in 2014/15.
On paper, that might seem somewhat commendable – a manager regularly risking one point for all three even if it means he inevitably walks away with none on a significant number of occasions. Furthermore, for a national team that has endured countless eliminations through heartbreaking penalty shoot-outs since their first and only triumph over half a century ago, there is obvious appeal.
Except, Pardew’s sides aren’t consistently inconsistent, going from victory to defeat with the odd draw here and there. Rather, Pardew’s sizable winning runs are only overshadowed by his losing streaks and the majority of his tenures can resultantly be split almost exactly down the middle.
A common pattern emerges. During his final 40 league games in charge of West Ham, Pardew lost just two less times, 22, than in his first 93 before eventually being sacked in December 2006. In his first 41 league fixtures at Charlton, Pardew claimed 16 wins and conceded only twelve defeats; in the remaining 43, he won just eight and lost 22, essentially securing two relegations in three years for the Addicks.
Amid his first 70 league games on Tyneside, the 54-year-old lost just 20, but suffered defeat 43 times out of the remaining 85 before moving to Selhurst Park in January 2015. And his Palace tenure looks set to become equally polarised; 60 points picked up in his first 35 games compared to just four in the twelve league outings since.
Pardew is a charismatic guy and likeable fellow, albeit with a tad of unnecessary smugness. But it appears that once the feel-good factor those characteristics provide slowly wears off, the Pardew Party Express comes unhinged from the tracks. Full steam ahead suddenly turns from a blessing to a curse, as Pardew’s sides plummet down the table with almost parallel momentum to when they were careering up it. It’s the inevitable dark side to the ecstasy Pardew’s wins provide; like the 70s were to the 60s; like a dry-heaving hangover after the incredible night before; like the sudden urge to crawl into the foetal position once you get home from an all-night rave.
When the Palace boss was asked about the England job in December, he responded by arguing it should be a tournament-by-tournament post. Perhaps that isn’t so surprising after trawling through Pardew’s career; he provides instantaneous short-term success, but the wheels eventually and inevitably fall off.
Perhaps if the ‘Golden Generation’ of Gerrard, Lampard and Co. were still intact, Pardew would prove a shrewd appointment on a short-term deal. But with so many young players emerging on the England scene at the moment – even by the time of the 2018 World Cup Dele Alli will be just 22 years of age – the Three Lions need to be building a team for the long-term.
Likewise, if Pardew’s record domestically is anything to go by, any noteworthy progress with England will shortly be followed by utter humiliation. After 50 years of hurt, I’m not sure our country would be able to cope.