All Apologies

So he’s done it. Alan Pardew has turned the Newcastle United ship around. A turgid home win over a dire Leicester side, a spirited fight back against a lethargic Spurs and a phenomenal performance by a youthful XI at the Etihad has seen the press hail Alan Pardew as some sort of Lazarus figure, rising up to feed humble pie to the locals. Following a meteoric rise to 14th in the Premier League, apologies have been demanded from the cruel supporters who paid so much money for so long to watch their side humiliated game after game and eventually decided they weren’t that happy with what they were getting. I would guess that defeat after crushing defeat is a lot easier to stomach if you a) don’t support the team in question and b) got into the game free with a press pass, something that also apparently entitles one to climb onto a high horse and patronise those who have had the misfortune to pay and watch every minute of this man’s tenure.

Personally I expected an apology after a 3-0 defeat at home to Sunderland but I didn’t get one. I expected one even more after the second 3-0 defeat at home to Sunderland, and the 6-0 home defeat to Liverpool, and after nearly being relegated in 2013, and after an appalling run of form that has been amongst the worst in the entire history of the Premier League and of the club. But all I got were excuses. I guess as a Newcastle fan, as usual, I just expect too much and should be happy with anything I get given.

Pardew holds the NUFC Premier League record for consecutive league defeats – six – yet still the press demanded he was given time, which makes their praise of him as the best man for the job following two league wins smell distinctly of a hidden agenda. It stinks of the old boys’ club mentality that dominates the English football media, where Pundit X does not want to criticise Manager Y in case he ends up sitting next to him in an Al-Jazeera studio somewhere down the line, unless he’s foreign of course and unlikely to want to sit and talk to Richard Keys, in which case the gloves are off, as Andre Villas Boas and many others have discovered.

Contrary to what you may have been led to think, nobody at SackPardew.com ever believed that Alan Pardew is bad enough that Newcastle United can lose every single game, or fail to win this season. That would be a nonsense. To my knowledge, no team in the history of professional football in England has managed to be that bad and nobody in their right mind ever expected a squad of young talented internationals to buck the trend. On the contrary, it was astonishing that he could manage to trawl so little from these players for such a long time. Amongst claims that they were little more than lame without Yohan Cabaye, I have long been of the belief that Newcastle have a vastly better squad than has been portrayed. That should have been the real eye-opener for neutral watchers of the team who played Manchester City – not that Alan Pardew had pulled off some tactical masterstroke by including Mehdi Abeid to dominate central midfield but why he has failed to start a single Premier League game in nearly four years at the club, if that is the level of performance he is capable of. Just how flawed is the manager’s judgement of players?

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Why has Yoan Gouffran been an undroppable fixture on the NUFC flanks, a (former) striker contributing nothing other than modest endeavour, when Aarons, Ameobi, Cabella, Perez, Armstrong, Ben Arfa, Marveaux and even Gabriel Obertan have all been available to him during that time to offer something of a threat to the opposition? He will be given “credit” by some if he no longer persists with this negative approach as a result of the game at the Etihad but I do not go along with that, it has been a consistent and damaging theme for too long. He was using Jonas Gutierrez in exactly the same manner more than two years ago – how can he have gotten this so wrong, for so long?

So quite why a couple of wins should be expected to change anybody’s mind on him is puzzling to me. We have been here before. Last Autumn, Newcastle went on a run of 7 wins in 9 games, including wins against Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United. It never shook my belief that he was not the man to deliver the Newcastle United that the squad says it should be. As soon as that run came to an end, the fall began, as it always begins. Pardew’s record throughout his career is consistent – modest peaks and devastating troughs.

If we’re looking for recent precedent of what an achievement this has been, three months before he was sacked Graeme Souness won 4 games in a row, including a derby, and Glenn Roeder repeated the derby feat as he won 5 on the spin later in the same season. Neither were ever anywhere near good enough to manage NUFC. So it is a mark of how shambolic Alan Pardew’s recent tenure has been that his defenders are leaping with glee on a 3 (THREE) game winning streak, something that he personally has bettered several times before and usually followed it up with either a thrashing at the hands of, for example, Wigan Athletic, or a defeat that starts one of his trademark downward spirals into months of abject performances. Unfortunately a flurry of form so short is evidence of little other than him having some decent players. Let’s hope he makes it 4 up tomorrow against one of his biggest public back-slappers, his old Reading colleague Brendan Rodgers, still feeling grateful for being allowed to score six without reply at St James’ Park, no doubt.

The question we should continue to be asking is not “Can he get the occasional great result with this squad?” because of course he can, any professional manager could, there is far too much talent in the boots of these players purchased for him for them not to show it on occasion. The question has always been “Is he able to get the best out of them on a consistent basis?” – for that is the benefit of having a quality manager – and I have seen nothing to disturb my belief that he cannot. We are still yet to see him get the best out of the first team once this season, so it is somewhat of a leap to assume that it is going to happen now, and happen regularly.