Over the years, following the club since the turn of the century, I’ve seen many managers come and go at Newcastle United. 9 in total; 7 full time managers and 2 interim appointments. Be it poor signings, a lack of hierarchcial backing, or simply poor tactics, one by one they have been shown the door despite the promise of long-term contracts; a long-forgotten utterance of their being a ‘long term plan’.
After the sacking of Chris Hughton and the appointment of Alan Pardew, I recall many fans described such a move as akin to divorcing Cheryl Cole and marrying Susan Boyle. How they’re collectively eating their words and singing from a unified hymnsheet now.
Fans shuddered at the thought of Pardew taking the helm; a manager whose previous club were a then League One-based Southampton and who’s most recently attained silverwear was the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Many would claim that the jump from the second tier of English football to a promoted Premier League side would be too great a leap for him. In the past we’ve witnessed such casualties as Paul Ince moving from MK Dons to Blackburn Rovers, lasting only 17 games.
Baptism of Fire
Alan Pardew has grasped the challenge with both hands. He has had to deal with, essentially, being powerless. Despite insisting that Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, Jose Enrique and Andy Carroll were integral members of the squad, he has seen all of them leave Tyneside in both quiet and ugly circumstances.
I went to see Fulham v Newcastle, two days after the sale of leading scorer and one-time local hero Andy Carroll. A player who Alan Pardew insisted would not be for sale (then again, what board could have refused Liverpool’s panic-induced £35m bid for an unproven striker with such little Premier League experience?). I must admit I found the performance from the team worrying.
With only four shots dispatched in the whole match, and just two on target, things certainly looked bleak. Added to this Shola Ameobi picked up an injury in the early stages and Newcastle went on to lose 1-0. The result was a clear hangover from losing their talismanic battering ram centre forward and results could certainly have taken a turn for a worse after this.
The final score showed the commitment to their manager, and the fist pump from Pardew after that Tiote equaliser showed something to Newcastle fans; He cares. Not since the days of the late Sir Bobby Robson has a Newcastle United team looked like a unit. This squad was men playing for each other, not playing for a summer transfer.
From there on in the club has built on a comfortable mid-table finish of 12th last season and currently lie 7th as we enter 2012, challenging for European football for the first time in six years. Pardew has got some tactics wrong, such as the disappointing recent 3-1 defeat at Anfield or the 4-0 thumping at Stoke’s fortress Britannia. But has made note and rectified them, such as the impressive win against Stoke on Halloween.
What Pardew has done is produce a team with relatively low funds, and is now competing amongst the more financially luxurious sides of the Premier League. Newcastle have surpassed everyone’s expectations, including those of Derek Llambias whose target for this season was a top ten finish.
Statistically speaking, Pardew has done an excellent job at Newcastle. Having been in charge for 45 games, he’s lost under a third of them (14) and won just over another third (16); impressive given the circumstances. Since taking charge, Newcastle have scored on average of one goal per game.
Putting faith in Tim Krul has proven dividends too. The 23 year old has had an 80% saves to shots ratio this season, compared to Harper’s 62% in the last campaign. Sky Sports have taken note and recently voted midfield generals Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye as the best partnership in the Premier League this season. On average, these two players cover an astonishing fourteen miles per game between them.
Why Harry Redknapp isn’t ideal for England
Many of you will argue that Harry Redknapp would automatically be first choice for upcoming vacancy Before October 2011, I would have agreed with you. An excellent motivator & tactically smart, England would probably have had the best chance of winning a tournament under an English manager since the late Sir Bobby Robson.
However, since Redknapp’s surgery, I can’t see him taking on the pressure of the England job after the departure of one Fabio Capello. With Spurs in such fine form it remain to be seen whether Harry would even take the job, or whether Levy would let him leave. Having only won one major trophy in English football, the FA Cup with Portsmouth Harry may wish to continue with Spurs, especially with Champions League qualification looking more than likely.
A further factor that must be considered is the current court case looming over Harry Redknapp which may dissuade the FA from offering him the job even if he is found innocent. Its worth noting that financial indiscretions led to Terry Venables being fired from the England job and the FA may want to avoid making the same mistake twice.
Why Alan Pardew is ideal for England
Looking through the premier league, the next English manager I see who fits the criteria closest to Redknapp is Alan Pardew. He’s a great motivator, gives players that self-belief they’re in dire need of, which has never seen to be put across from Mr. Capello. Most importantly of all, he is English, which will likely be the criteria for Capello’s successor.
Pardew would take tactics & formations back to basics, to recoup skills they have lost over the past decade. Posession, stretching the opposition, & making the team a solid unit defensively would be re-introduced. With his backing, the national side would grow in confidence, commitment & passion would overrule flair, & England would throw bodies in front of the ball. I expect England to introduce a ‘backs to the wall’ regime’ reminiscent of West Ham’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United back in 1995.
I think Pardew would re-introduce that composure the more experienced players tend to lose playing internationally. England had the most shots off target during South Africa 2010, thirty-four to be specific. Many of these seemed to come out of desperation, lack of concentration, or exhaustion from the heat.
Is he up for it? Will the hierarchy allow him?
You do have to question whether Pardew would be bold enough to take on this challenge, or if he’d feel obliged to stay at Newcastle. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did take it on, nor would I hold it against him. Obviously the challenge of a club such as Newcastle United was too good to turn down for a man out of work, having resigned from a then League one side. However, they’re not his boyhood club, & it would surely be a dream of his to manage his country. This said, what if his contract was flawless?
What if Mike Ashley & Derek Llambias rejected his request to ‘abandon ship’ which they’ve seen too many times in such a short reign at Tyneside? Mike Ashley has put over 130 million of his own funds to free the club of debt, & balance financially to the club. Would Pardew’s departure be one Spanner to the works too many?
Of course this is all speculation. Ultimately, all this amounts to Redknapp getting first refusal. If he does reject the offer, The FA, if they are looking for an English manager, will have to look further North, & do something men have tried & failed: Get Mike Ashley to listen to you.