Are You Experienced?

8 Dec

ever get the feeling you've been absolutely raped?

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.


3 Responses to “Are You Experienced?”

  1. scott 08/12/2010 at 19:27 #

    i thought ashley had changed. i thought he had an ace up his sleeve. he can’t be doing this again.

  2. Mole 09/12/2010 at 11:01 #

    I thought all the media hype about not giving Hughton a contract was just that, misplaced hype. I’d heard that Newcastle were in a new frugal era, making sure they didn’t commit until after Christmas to ensure they were on course for survival, making sure the contract would be on the best terms for the club. It seemed sensible to me, it’s easy to say after a ridiculous derby victory give him a contract, but waiting till New Year to see if you’re on course – that’s fine. Fits with the transfer policy too I thought.

    But no . . . there was no intention of giving him a new contract at any point because they were waiting to sack him. West Brom had a similar short run of big losses and bad results (largely based on an inability to keep 11 men on the pitch), but no one was this rash there – they had the perspective to know you can lose a few games badly. In fact West Brom are a good comparison this year, some great results, some very poor ones, some good football, a few really empty performances, but overall nicely on course for a decent season to build on.

    Pardew’s Premier League experience is one good season with West Ham (05/06) where after promotion West Ham finished 9th, and of course had that FA Cup final, which resulted in European Qualification. But this sort of season wasn’t obviously outside the reach of Hughton (well maybe the FA cup run was).

    Since then he (Pardew) had a disappointing half a season with West Ham (06/07) ending in a sacking and a disappointing half season with Charlton which ended in relegation, although you would be hard pressed to blame him solely for that inheriting a Charlton side in 19th and in serious trouble for a whole host of reasons.

    (He does of course have good Championship and League 1 experience with Reading, and his spell at Southampton, which I would leave for Saints fans to comment on)

    Ultimately, a sidestep which jeopardises the stability.

    Interestingly, I heard through the twitter grapevine that the signing of Leon Best for £1 million, considered an expensive failure by the board + Ashley, was long held against Hughton and that he subsequently had little to do with transfers, though obviously integrating new arrivals well. Wonder how much this was held against him.

  3. Mole 09/12/2010 at 11:04 #

    Oh and here is NUFC fixture list coming up:

    11 Liverpool (H)
    18 Birmingham (A)
    26 Man City (H)
    28 Tottenham (A)

    1 Wigan (A)
    5 West Ham (H)
    15 Sunderland (A)
    22 Tottenham (H)

    Following the (very winnable) Liverpool match (Hodgson’s away form really is terrible)are 3 exremely hard matches, 2 crucial games against struggling sides, and then two more hard hard matches. Pardew will have a very uphill start.

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