As he had been expected to do for some time, Alan Pardew officially took over at Crystal Palace today. Pardew has signed a three-and-a-half year contract and will take charge of the club’s FA Cup game at Dover tomorrow afternoon.
That Pardew saw Palace as a preferable option to Newcastle is no surprise. Despite the league position that he’s inheriting, Steve Parish has allowed him the opportunity to work in a much more transparent environment. There will be no asterisks about ownership at Selhurst Park and there will be no caveats over his job performance and, after the last four years, that’s probably of great relief to Pardew.
One of the great draws of this job was probably the opportunity it provided for him to be a football manager again, rather than just the frontman for a hated regime - because that was the perception that did him the most damage at St James’ Park.
His tenure in the north-east was characterised by his notoriously fractious relationship with the Newcastle fans and, although also a by-product of his win-loss record, that acrimony was facilitated by circumstance.
Pardew was appointed in a way that undermined him forever. Supposedly - back in 2011 - he jumped to the top of Mike Ashley’s wish-list because of his friendship with Derek Llambias, the former manager director. Pardew’s CV was weak at the time and there was nothing on it which made him a stand-out for a job of that size, so it was easy to view him as a soft appointment.
The result was that Pardew was always seen to exist within a false reality at Newcastle and that he somehow - from arrival to departure - operated outside the boundaries of a normal employer/employee dynamic. Naturally, the conspiracy theories followed: If he was the best candidate for the job, what was it within the description that made it such an unappealing position? What was it that Pardew was agreeing to do? What was he there to cover-up?
The true rationale behind that appointment will likely never be known, but the cynicism towards it raged all the way through Pardew’s time at the club.
As United’s form dipped and Pardew sank into the managerial territory marked ‘untenable’, his ability to survive every crisis just accentuated the belief that he was a puppet. Contemporary football is rife with short-term boardroom thinking and yet Ashley never swung his axe.
Superficially, that would seem to have been to Pardew’s benefit, but on a deeper level it was greatly to the detriment of his reputation. The impression was of a father employing his under-qualified son and the supporters responded to him accordingly, believing that his successes were over-amplified and that his failures didn’t carry any consequence.
For a time, having that kind of job would be very appealing: A good contract, a lot of security, and a very big stage. The trouble, however, is that a point is eventually reached when the lack of credibility it affords becomes an issue - and, at a guess, that has been part of Pardew’s thinking over this past week.
For better or worse, at Crystal Palace he will be judged on his own terms. While his playing career is a pleasant peripheral detail, Pardew has been appointed on a pure footballing basis. He has been done no favours by Steve Parish, there have been no ambiguities within the interview process, and he will now succeed or fail depending on his coaching acumen.
No longer will he be seen through the distorting prism that Mike Ashley creates.