Realistically, Alan Pardew’s only hope of retaining his job at Newcastle United rests on the reality that Mike Ashley has probably made the manager’s job sufficiently unappealing as to discourage any other options.
Big club though Newcastle undeniably are, there’s always the possibility of something ridiculous happening at St James Park and that must be very off-putting. Ashley is, in a football sense, completely unpredictable and always liable to derail on-pitch progress with a nonsensical infrastructure tweak or three.
If there are out-of-work managers around who crave the opportunity to be a yes-man for a blundering regime then great, but head coaches seeking a stable working environment need not apply.
But say Pardew is removed this Summer, what next for him?
The consensus might be that he’s the lesser of two evils at his current club and that his perceived failings are lost in Ashley’s shadow, but is that really true? If, for example, another Premier League chairman was to cast his eye over Pardew’s CV would he be suitably impressed by what he read?
When Newcastle appointed Pardew, the groans of disappointment that met the decision were a natural reaction to an underwhelming CV. Look at his past, and you’ll see a manager who generally does good work outside of the top-flight but who - 2011/12 - struggles to make any real impact within the Premier League. He took West Ham to promotion at the second time of asking in 2005/06 before being sacked the next season for under-performance, he failed to save Charlton from relegation in 2006 and was eventually removed after the club’s stagnation and - then - decline in the Championship, and then he had a brief spell with Southampton which was ended by rumoured gross-misconduct.
The argument could certainly be made that, had Pardew never met Derek Llambias, he would never have been given another opportunity at the top-level again.
Newcastle is the spike in his career, but even his team there could only be described as ‘mixed’. Yes, the fifth-placed finish was impressive, but retrospectively doesn’t that look like an anomaly? Newcastle may have had some notable victories under Pardew, but some of the credit for those must really be syphoned on and allocated to Graham Carr’s excellent scouting department. That the club were able to build a very good side for a relatively small amount of money is not really relevant to Pardew’s job-performance: he had a lot of talent at his disposal and for a brief period he used it effectively.
Only temporarily though, and only before 2012/13 and the flirt with relegation and prior to the horrendous late-season slump in the current campaign. Sure, Yohan Cabaye was sold and that was destabilising, but that in itself does not explain what has happened in 2014 - and, moreover, it reinforces the belief that Pardew is a limited manager who has been propped-up by individual players for the last few years. Would 2011/12 have been as notable without Papiss Cisse’s absurd scoring form? Would Pardew have avoided relegation last season without the quick-fix signings made in January? What would have happened to Newcastle this season had Cabaye not been quite as sensational as he was before leaving for PSG?
No, you can’t attribute all the blame to Pardew and all the success to everyone else, but he’s hardly done the ‘great job’ at St James’ Park that ex-players and friendly media types often credit him with. The impression you get, from the outside at least, is of a manager who has limited control over how well his side plays and who is overly-reliant on the circumstances around him. When key individuals are on-form everything looks great, but Pardew has shown that without that talent performing and without artificial improvement through the transfer-market, he has no idea of how to organically alter the mood of his side.
And what of Alan Pardew the person? How employable will he be in the future?
If you take the time to do this, it’s a very revealing exercise: Google search his departures from his respective former clubs. At every point, you’ll find articles about fan protests or deteriorating internal relationships. And doesn’t that mirror what’s happening now? Newcastle fans’ ire may be permanently directed at Mike Ashley, but don’t ignore just how much Pardew is now disliked on Tyneside - he’s an arrogant and abrasive personality, and his peacock-like touchline demeanour and media posturing has a very obvious shelf-life. He’s the classic British ex-professional-turned-manager: his self-regard outmatches his achievements and time-after-time during his coaching career that trait has alienated fans and players.
The more you examine this situation, the more you realise that Alan Pardew needs to cling to the Newcastle job with all his might. There are going to be very few Premier League stops for him after St James’ Park. Really, he’s a Championship-standard manager dressed in a Premier League suit.
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