Premature as it may be to begin the back lash before all the hyperbole has calmed down and the deal is finally done, saving an unlikely (but not impossible) u-turn, it seems Alan Pardew will become the next in a long line to grasp the poisoned chalice that is management of Newcastle United Football Club; and thus become the sixth manager of Mike Ashley’s four year tenure.
Frankly, media report that the deal was done (or at least influenced) around the poker table are too depressing for me to even begin contemplating; though previous accounts of ‘favour loans’ to Latin American agents based on YouTube clips set a fairly nadiral precedent. Basically – unconscionably – it’s probably true.
But that aside – for now – Pardew’s appointment under the club’s own stated requirements is baffling. It seems that even Ashley is unable to keep up with the movement of his own moving goalposts. For, whilst ostensibly searching for ‘more experience’, we seem destined to end up with a manager who has managed four clubs, only one of which is anything like a regular fixture in the Premier League – West Ham – and they are hardly a template for what we desire of NUFC!
Aside from leading out the losing side in probably the best FA Cup final ever, what ‘experience’ has our newly appointed gaffer got? Well, he presided over Charlton Athletic getting relegated (and look where they are now). Yes he won a couple of promotions, one into the Premier League, but Hughton has that experience too. And what Hughton has that Pardew seems to be lacking, is experience, albeit as a coach, at a so-called ‘big club’ (Spurs).
Pardew most recently presided over Southampton’s languished stay in League One, and albeit that he was handed a debilitating point deduction, failed to get them out of the quagmire. If, worst case scenario, we go down next season, and he is still at the helm, will he have the ‘experience’ to bring us back up, and handle the inevitable fan pressure and despondency that accompanied our last relegation? Hughton did; I fear Pardew would not.
But most worrying for me is the turmoil and antagonism with chairmen at both Reading and Southampton. With our current ‘colourful’ owner being less than easy to get on with, and with yet more turmoil and contestation from disgruntled fans already threatening, what price another sacking by the end of this season? The ‘old boys’ anecdotes from around the blackjack table will only get him so far; apparently five games without a win is all it takes for Ashley to convert you from ‘contract-renegotiated-at-the-end-of-the-season’ to ‘we-need-to-part-company’.
I know that such a negative and hopeless diatribe is less that helpful at the beginning of yet another ‘fresh start’ for this club. I know that I should be trying – once again – to, if not put a positive spin on yet another inept appointment, then at least be saying ‘right; let’s please just get on with playing some football now… please. No more circus, no more scandal – just give this manager some time’. But I’m just tired. I’m tired. I’m tired of the lies, the back-handed compliments to fans and discarded managers alike, the under-handed ‘favours’ and deals, the duplicitous double-speak, the incomprehensible decision making, the lack of clear and permanent goals for the short, medium and long term to improve the fortunes of this club. I’m tired and, at this point, I’m finding it hard to gear myself up for yet another inevitable disappointment.
I finish with this final despondent point. In 2008, Ashley got rid of a manager (Keegan) who, whilst his appointment had been met with derision and suspicion, had managed to convince the majority of NUFC fans that he was doing a decent job and that, given time, could prove to be a prudent choice. In 2008, the replacement was met with destructive, yet totally justified, fan protests that destabilised the club and gave the new incumbent – a bizarre, left-field appointment (Kinnear) that asked significant questions about the selection criteria – no chance whatsoever of success; and so it proved. In a perilous position, the club flitted between a mentality of ‘play-it-safe-and-we-might-stay-up’ and tokenistic rashness that pandered to the most infantile depictions of Toon fans as rose-tinted ‘we’d-prefer-to-loose-four-three’ morons with a messiah complex. Enter Shearer. Exit Shearer.
Neither position worked (or more correctly, the bi-polar flitting between the two didn’t work), and we were relegated. However, the Championship flattered us because we started well, and a number of clubs came to St. James’ with a definite mentality of ‘at least will have a grand day out at a huge stadium’; we were allowed to be promoted, and I don’t say this to belittle Hughton’s achievements (look at the Boro), but we were never tested, and so the assumption that we were dead certs to go back up at the first attempt was never fully questioned. We were just ‘too big’ to be in the Championship.
2010 seems to be following, worryingly, this already-ploughed furrow. Hughton, despite reservations at the beginning of the season, was doing a decent (not great) job. His sacking will be met with vitriol from the terraces. His replacement will not be given a chance, and will (I fear) be given short shrift. Will we then be left with clutching at straws? How many messiahs do we have left in reserve?
If – and I know this is too early to say, but I’m at a very low ebb, and quite a nihilistic mood – we get relegated again, the veneer of being a big fish in a small pond will have vanished. Many more of the clubs in that division will treat their games against us as possible wins and we will struggle. And will players like Barton, Nolan, Carroll etc stoop to another season in the Championship? A quick bounce back will not be as likely, and then where? It’s only a short trip to Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United, Charlton Athletic.
Experience? We’ve experienced this before.