After his side’s 3-2 win over Everton yesterday, Alan Pardew failed to fulfill his media duties. John Carver was sent to face the press instead and, supposedly, when a reporter queried whether Pardew’s absence had anything to do with the vacant Crystal Palace job, Carver was instructed not to answer by the Newcastle press officer.
Clearly, no official agreement has been reached between Pardew and Steve Parish, but several mainstream sources are reporting this morning that the former would be open to a discussion and is seemingly keen to leave the job that he’s fought so hard to keep.
Begging an obvious question: Why?
It’s tempting to compare Newcastle United and Crystal Palace on a literal basis and to be baffled by anyone’s desire to move from one to the other. Look beyond the cathedral-like St James’ Park, the enormous fan base and the theoretical size of the resources, though, and appreciate Pardew’s reality.
He’s hated by the Newcastle fans. Really, really loathed. Whether that’s primarily because of his relationship with Mike Ashley, the team’s performance, Pardew’s grating self-regard or, most likely, a combination of all three, is irrelevant. The relationship between the crowd and the bench is, at best, quietly resentful and, at worst, absolutely toxic.
Beyond that, though, what is Alan Pardew actually doing at Newcastle?
Because of the way the club is run, the manager and the team are very much labouring under a glass-ceiling. Mike Ashley’s ambition really doesn’t stretch beyond staying in the Premier League, collecting broadcasting revenue and utilising the club as a marketing platform, so - having spent four years in the North-East already - what is Pardew really gaining by seeing out the remaining years on his contract?
He is a flawed manager and he has been directly responsible for a lot of substandard performances over the past few seasons, but he has enjoyed periods of success and he must surely feel that everything that can be done at Newcastle has already been achieved.
There’s no sense of having a job to complete at St James’ Park, because this isn’t that sort of football club. Mike Ashley doesn’t target Europe, he doesn’t value cup competitions and he isn’t particularly concerned as to whether the team finishes in the top or bottom half. All that matters is continuity.
Pardew is presumably very well-paid by Newcastle and he gets the chance to manage a team in front of 50,000 supporters every other weekend, but he is not really progressing towards anything. Realistically, his only objective is to tread water and to get the supporters to hate him a little less.
Crystal Palace is different.
Selhurst Park is a relic of a different era and the club is severely restricted by its budget, but it presents an obvious challenge. From Pardew’s perspective, there’s actually a ‘job to be done’ in South London and, at its core, isn’t that what management is actually about? Palace may also operate under a glass-ceiling - arguably a much lower one than Newcastle - but they are an infinitely less cynical club who, strangely, offer a greater opportunity for reputation development.
If, over the course of three or four years, Pardew is able to move Palace from the relegation zone to mid-table, he will have done a very fine job. The opportunity to do that - the chance to move a team from Position A to Position B - is what’s missing at Newcastle. Steve Parish will never sanction big-ticket purchases and, beyond a certain point, Palace will always be a selling club, but there is an intention to progress at Selhurst Park and the club’s raison d’etre is at least sporting rather than commercial.
There are all kinds of myriad factors here, too. Pardew’s family home is still in Greater London, that Palace crowd is arguably the best in the Premier League and, not insignificantly, he would actually be welcomed by the supporters - which, remember, is the complete reverse of the situation he walked into in 2010 when he succeeded Chris Hughton.
The argument for Alan Pardew staying at Newcastle is obvious and it makes itself, but Palace is probably far more appealing to him than most assume.
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