Things have gone from bad to worse for Alan Pardew at Newcastle. Whereas their 3-0 defeat in the Tyne-Wear derby was a bitter pill to swallow, their following fixture, a 6-0 romping at home to Liverpool, the club’s worst defeat at St. James’s Park since 1925, has been regarded by the Magpies faithful as an abomination, and now, with just three games left to play, the club find themselves just five points clear of safety in the Premier League, with 18th place Wigan possessing a game in hand.
I’m not one for ‘I told you so’, but being a Charlton Athletic fan, I’ve warned Newcastle supporters ever since Pardew’s appointment in 2010 that eventually the wheels would fall off, leaving behind the most horrific of car crashes, and unfortunately my prophecy has come true. You may argue that my opinion is biased, due to the Newcastle boss having a rather dismal tenure at The Valley, with my favoured club dropping down to League One under his leadership, but the truth is, there is a typical pattern throughout Pardew’s managerial career that emulates the capitalist economy in terms of success and failure.
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There is always initial achievement, a honeymoon period, a boom era, that during his days at the Magpies helm pushed the club to fifth in the Premier League, yet that is soon followed by a complete contrast in fortunes and a plummet in league position – the footballing equivilent of a sudden economic crash. In terms of history repeating itself, I’d like to point out the commonality between the club’s situation over the past two years with that of West Ham’s 2005/2006 and 2006/2007 seasons.
Now that the boom Pardew consistently provides is over, you’d argue its time that Mike Ashley politely moved on the 51 year old in the summer. But in rather short-sighted circumstances, the Newcastle owner rewarded his head coach for last season’s overachievements with an eight year contract at the start of the season – a length of employment not even offered in the modern age to the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger. With that in mind, it seems unlikely Ashley will be terminating Pardew’s deal, as the compensation package could well be unprecedented for a Premier League managerial dismissal. But should the Newcastle boss make the decision to leave of his own accord, considering he is overall responsible for the performances of the first team?
I was surprised last night to see Gary Neville defend the Magpies boss. Whilst I’d claim incompetence on Pardew’s part, the Sky Sports pundit has pointed to the flaws of the club’s transfer policy. It is true that over the past few seasons, far too many players have come through the doors at St. James’s Park, the vast majority from the French top flight, and thus, as we have seen with QPR during a similar time period, changing up personnel without a remaining core leaves clubs lacking in a sense of identity, which in turn creates an impossible situation in terms of finding a suitable system to deploy.
Similarly, a deficiency in familiarity with the Premier League creates uncertainty, which leads to defensive mistakes and individual errors, and it is a concern that yet another top flight club are no longer reliant on English talent, with only four home grown players making over ten appearances for Newcastle this season.
Yet, I have my criticisms of Neville’s view. The Tyneside club’s successes last year were built around their excellent scouting network, bringing in Ligue 1 players to sufficiently raise the quality of the first team, and similarly, in the summer, a single purchase was made – Vernun Anita from the Eredivisie. Coincidentally, a lack of new recuits was Pardew’s excuse, combined with the demanding schedule of the Europa League, for Newcastle’s poor form in the first half of the season.
Secondly, in regards to the five players brought in from Ligue 1 in January, it hardly seemed like an outlandish move at the time considering quality alone appeared to be the only factor keeping the Magpies out of the relegation scrap, and extending that benefit at relatively cheap cost whilst at the same time bringing in fresh recruits to bolster a squad weakened by a serious injury crisis was a logical solution. However, failing to secure the services of Loic Remy was clearly a missed opportunity, and it is a concern that none of the January purchases appear to have actually raised the level of talent available to Pardew.
In my opinion however, the buck must stop with the man in charge. Newcastle’s transfer policy, headed by Graham Carr, may have its failings, but it’s not as if the Magpies boss has considerable knowledge in terms of coming up with alternative signings that are closer to home. He’s very much a figurehead and a stooge for Ashley’s bidding, and the view from the Newcastle board appears to be the less Pardew is involved in the business side of things, the better.
And thus, his limited role, mainly restricted to match day motivation, press conferences and the training ground, has clearly been carried out ineffectively this year. In November, a Newcastle fan pointed out that the team have scored just once from 234 attempted corners, whilst at the other end, the Magpies let in three goals alone from set pieces in a single match against Manchester United earlier in the season. You can curse bad luck all you wish, but success from dead ball situations comes down to working hard in training and having an eye for the most minute details to create an advantage, which Pardew is clearly lacking in.
Similarly, there appears to be little understanding of the opposition or any variation in play. Pardew deploys his starting XI in either a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formation, with relatively little difference between either formation and the crux of his game plan being to lump the ball to Papiss Cisse, with the Senegal forward constantly isolated as the lone striker, and him furthermore not being renowned for his ability to hold up the ball, in fact I’d argue it is one of the 27 year old’s biggest flaws.
Perhaps it is unfair to blame Pardew for the confusion on the pitch in all departments which has clearly been influenced by the five January signings failing to adapt quickly to the English game, but had the Newcastle boss performed better in the first half of the season the emergency recruits would not have been required, and the club would not find itself in the middle of a fight for survival with just three games remaining.
Last season, Alan Pardew held tightly upon to the coattails of his team’s successes, defying the odds to finish up in fifth place and in the process qualifying for the Champions League. He was happy enough to lift the Manager of the Year award, despite in my opinion doing little to earn it, with the majority of the hard work being conducted behind the scenes by Graham Carr. And now that things have unsurprisingly turned sour, I find it a difficult hypothesis to simply turn on the club’s transfer policy, due to it not involving enough Englishmen or experienced Premier League players.
If Pardew is willing to accept the rewards for his ‘abilities’ he must accept the criticisms and failings, and during the current campaign they have been plentiful and clear to see. He has not lead the first team as a manager is supposed to, and he has not successfully filled the void between Chairman and players as he has in the past. I firmly believe that Pardew owes it to the Toon faithful to step down, as he is clearly not up to the task required of him at a club facing rapid expansion through a surplus of resources by keeping all things on the pitch running smoothly. What the Magpies crave from one year to the next is stability and consistency, and Pardew cannot provide that. It’s time for him to do the honorable thing and resign, for the sake of the club and the fans.