I really don’t want to suggest that Newcastle’s decision to hand Alan Pardew an eight-year contract was a bad move; I think clubs should look to similar contracts more often as a means to secure their most valuable personnel. Those who then look to Mike Ashley as having made a mistake also seem to be out of touch with the game. It assumes that no manager can go through a bad spell. It assumes that all the pieces fall into place without any problems. It assumes that a hugely impressive performance the season prior will always or should always be followed by something equally impressive.
I don’t believe Pardew to be a bad manager and I don’t believe he’s doing a bad job at the moment. Yes it’s a disappointment that Newcastle look miles away from landing another Europa League spot and building on what they did last season, but where’s the nod to the circumstances the manager is working in?
He, like Mike Ashley, always knew Demba Ba was going to leave at some stage. With his scoring form and the irresistible buyout clause inserted into his contract, there was no way Newcastle would be able to keep him away from clubs higher up the league table.
But the loss of Ba hasn’t been the biggest blow to the club. Going through much of the campaign thus far without Yohan Cabaye is a crippling effect that would be felt by any club. Goal scorers are as important as anything, as is a good and confident goalkeeper. But holding it all together is the midfielder, the player with the quality of Cabaye. Maybe for a short while we saw Tottenham feel the effects of losing Luka Modric. Arsenal looked all over the place following Cesc Fabregas’ departure. How many times will people look to the need for Manchester United to properly address their midfield and find a replacement for Paul Scholes?
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Adding to that, Hatem Ben Arfa, another one of Pardew’s most important players, has been in and out with injury. The squad have been ravaged, purchases such as Vurnon Anita haven’t done enough to make noticeable or equal contributions such as that of Cabaye and Cheick Tiote last season. And now with a forward line that looks very light, Mike Ashley really needs to start backing up that contract extension which has had everyone talking.
Alan Pardew recently said that Newcastle were not too good to go down. It was a response, of course, to many who suggest that the team were good enough to fight off the threat of relegation. But it was, more than anything, a message to the owner. This team need reinforcements in a big way, and like the hopeful arrival of the cavalry, Mike Ashley needs to charge through the door with a new attitude.
Making do is not good enough when expectations were raised so high after last season. Sitting by and accepting that the club can’t compete with those who are better off financially isn’t good enough. Isn’t that why Graham Carr was given an equally lengthy contract extension to that of Pardew? Selling clubs will catch onto the success Newcastle had in the market in previous windows, but it doesn’t hide the fact that there continue to be excellent bargains hidden away in corners and underneath rocks for clubs like Newcastle to exploit.
If Loic Remy has been identified by the club as a player good enough to come in and replace Demba Ba then Ashley has to roll the dice. What sort of message does it send? For starters, it says that the club are willing to go all out to put the season right. Loic Remy has been linked with Arsenal and Tottenham in the past, the latter for a noticeably long time. If Newcastle can complete that transfer then it says the club are competing with the clubs who hold a higher status in the Premier League. It says that Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa wasn’t a one-off, a fluke. It says that this is our aim, these are our targets and we’re looking to follow through on them.
Newcastle needed stability and they’ve been given that by a manager who knows English football well. Mathieu Debuchy is an excellent start to the new year, a player who is rated by many as the best right-back for France and the best in Ligue 1 for the past few seasons. But more is needed. Mike Ashley needs to show the fans and his manager that there is ambition and desire to go along with that contract.