Wouldn’t last January be seen as a bit of a waste if Newcastle opted to sack Alan Pardew this summer? Why does it have to be this way in football? One season offers nothing but high praise; the next is built on undertones that a new dawn is needed. Isn’t it enough that Pardew and Newcastle avoided the drop? Where’s the sense of long-term building?
It would be a mistake to write Pardew off now. Why was he good enough when Newcastle finished fifth in the Premier League but not now? I’m sure he didn’t tell Mike Ashley to keep his chequebook well away from last summer’s transfer activity. The real building on from that fifth place finish took place this past January. Were we to expect anything else in terms of results after such a high volume of new arrivals midway through the season?
What I’m not going to do is talk Pardew up as one of the best managers in the country; there are other football writers who choose to do so. What should be said is that he has done a fantastic job of enhancing (or redefining) his own image and status in English football. Newcastle should have been battling for mid-table mediocrity in that season, but instead they challenged the might of the Premier League were rewarded (because it is a reward) with Europa League football.
It’s a learning curve for Newcastle as a whole. Play the game like they did last summer and there will be discussions and contingency plans for relegation. But it shouldn’t have come to that this season. Newcastle are comfortably better than all three of the teams who faced the drop, and yet the performances say more about the club’s desire to sit back on their past glory than any major shortcomings of the manager.
What good will it do to sack Pardew now? You have to ask where Newcastle will look for another manager. Spain? Yes possibly. France have a title-winning manager who could be had this summer. Yet it begs the question as to what the last few seasons were for. Most importantly, that eight-year contract will look immeasurably stupid on the part of the Newcastle board.
What are the grounds for looking for another manager at this stage? Because Newcastle finished just above the relegation zone and watched their ‘equals’ in the league drive on past them? What about losing 3-0 to Sunderland when they too were in turmoil? Let’s be honest, Newcastle aren’t above battling it out the hard way or losing convincingly to their rivals. If they were, they’d be well and truly challenging for the league title every season, and yet even Manchester United have felt the sting of humiliation in recent seasons.
The eight-year contract was symbolic of a club who had finally found all the right pieces in the important places. I’m not buying the idea that Graham Carr and the scouting system will get ‘found out’ sooner or later by the rest of Europe. That’s a lot of nonsense. Yes, others will look on and admire, like many Arsenal supporters who regularly questioned why they didn’t have enough about them to land Yohan Cabaye or Mathieu Debuchy, among others. Here was a manager who finally seemed to be on the same page as everyone else at the club, and yet the blame can and should be laid at Mike Ashley for not continuing to build when it was necessary. The fact that they did go on to strengthen in January just shows that it was always possible, yet complacency was the easier choice of the two.
The end of next season will be a better time to judge Pardew, provided, of course, Newcastle address their squad this summer. Replace the likely outgoing Fabricio Coloccini and add depth where at matters. Tactical shortcomings can be balanced out by a good squad who know what’s required of them, as well as the benefit of a pre-season with the latest arrivals. Above all, maintain stability while it is still an option.
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