The Word: Alan Pardew’s form banner was a stark indication that handing managers long contracts isn’t always a wise idea


Ring any bells? The above is a quote from a banner that was displayed at a football match on October 4th 2014. Specifically, the banner was unfurled during Newcastle United’s visit to Swansea City and the string of letters in fact represented the Magpie’s recent win/draw/loss record. The “LLWDLLLWWLWLLLLLLLLWLLDDLD” was underlined with the caption: “Not a Welsh town. Our form in 2014.”

The banner was further adorned with a pair of black and white images of Alan Pardew’s face – him being the Newcastle manager at the time.

The banner was produced by the Newcastle fan site The site still exists by the way and is well worth a look at. SackPardew did more than just bring a single banner to Swansea too. They also distributed A3 ‘Sack Pardew’ leaflets amongst travelling supporters and brought a second banner that labelled Pardew “Hopeless”.

The fact that Pardew was hardly beloved amongst Newcastle fans is far from remarkable. Very few managers are able to retain the support of such a large fanbase over a sustained period covering more than a couple of season. By this stage, Pardew had been in the dugout at St James’ Park for almost four years.

What is remarkable, however, is the fact that the 57-year-old’s contract with the North East giants still had six years left to run at this stage. In other words, Pardew’s deal with Newcastle was not set to expire until 2020. Had he not been relieved of his duties already he’d still have two years left to go even now, which implies dizzying stupidity on the part of the club’s board and owner, Mike Ashley.

The manager was handed a five-and-a-half-year deal when he first took the job in 2010. The extension that converted said contract into an eight-year agreement was signed in 2012 as a reward for having led the Magpies to a fifth place finish in the previous Premier League campaign, as reported by the BBC.

At the time the extension was awarded, Pardew’s stock was admittedly high. He had brought European football – in the form of the Europa League – to St James’ for the first time in years and had also just become the first English boss to win both the Premier League and League Managers’ Association’s ‘manager of the year’ awards in the same season.

As per the aforementioned BBC report, the club’s managing director, Derek Llambias, made the following statement regarding Pardew’s contract extension: “If you look at clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have shown that stability gives you the best platform to achieve success and that is the model we wish to emulate here.”

Of course, it didn’t quite pan out like that, as just over two years later (still six to go, of course) a certain banner was being unfolded at the Liberty Stadium. 

Pardew left Newcastle – with a compensation package agreed – to take up the Crystal Palace job on December 29th 2014. 

According to Sports Vibe, as of January 2017, the average lifespan of a manager in the Premier League since its inauguration in 1992 was a mere 1165 days (or 91 matches). Pardew’s eight-year contract in full would have accounted for roughly 2920 days. Pardew was in fact in the hot seat on Tyneside for 1482 days. He may have outlasted the average, but that is still a shortfall of 1438 days.

If ever there was a moral to this story it’s that the world of football management is cutthroat and long-term thinking isn’t necessarily a commodity that can be banked upon.

Did Manchester United heed this message when it came to replacing Sir Alex Ferguson with David Moyes in 2013? Not at all. Instead, they handed the Scotsman a six-year deal. He lasted 10 months at Old Trafford. In both cases, these examples of thoughtlessly excessive and ill-advised contracts being handed to managers proved to ultimately be very costly to the clubs both on and off the pitch.