It has been 600 days since Reading beat Newcastle United 2-1 at St James’ Park. By that point in the 2012/13 season Newcastle had already suffered home defeats to Manchester United, West Ham, Swansea, Manchester City and Everton. It was January.
For many it was a turning point, the conclusive proof that his time had come; the final straw. For me it was confirmation of all my previous concerns.
The manner in which the game was lost, and it was lost, as opposed to won, was a combination of many of the areas of management in which Pardew is severely flawed. Pardew would tell you, with a straight face, that he sets his teams out to attack. However, here he tried to defend a 1-0 half time lead at home to poor opposition, getting it spectacularly wrong in the process. He’ll tell you that he likes attacking players, yet he substituted the effective Marveaux for Perch; a move which made the team substantially less threatening and showed an alarming lack of foresight. He will also tell you that he’s a fan of Newcastle United, yet he blamed the rest of us for the result stating that the substitutions “brought a negative reaction that spread around.”
Cabaye had just returned from injury and likely wouldn’t see the game out. Common sense would suggest that the Frenchman should be the one to make way for Perch, rather than the industrious and fully-fit Marveaux. Marveaux won the free kick from which Newcastle took the lead in the first half, but by moving up the pitch he broke one of Alan’s first rules of football; stand by your fullback. As it turned out, Cabaye had to be substituted anyway after the midfielder reported pain in his recently ‘recovered’ groin. A woeful combination of decisions killed the side’s rhythm and ultimately set the tone for yet another appalling home defeat.
“You don’t know what you’re doing!” sang the home fans. They were right.
The game was an important milestone in Pardew’s Newcastle career, but it wasn’t a one-off. Had it been an isolated incident I wouldn’t be writing this article. At the time of writing, this is Newcastle’s competitive record since:
Statistics tell you part of the story but that’s not all there is to it.
There’s no joy in watching Pardew’s Newcastle team. There’s no endeavour and no intention to threaten the opposing team in a cohesive way. You rarely see the team work their way up the pitch as a team, and when it does happen the impression is that football has all of a sudden ‘broken out’ through fortune rather than design.
The standard rebuttal is usually something like ‘it’s Ashley’s fault’ or ‘who else would we get’? Ashley is at fault, no question, but that shouldn’t mean Pardew gets a free pass. The clearest response to the second question is that we need someone who gets the team playing football, as opposed to telling them exactly where to stand and not to move forwards unless we win a corner. We need a manager who thinks football is to be enjoyed by those playing as well as by those watching, I don’t particularly mind who it is but I’m convinced we could attract someone who fits the bill, even with ‘this owner’.
Mathieu Debuchy recently revealed that he was frustrated during his time at the club because Pardew ‘told him to stay back’. That’s French international first choice right back Mathieu Debuchy. I’m not going to go into how utterly mismanaged Newcastle’s squad of players has been over the last four years, that’s a different article, suffice to say that failing to get the best out of Debuchy, by being negative rather than positive, is a microcosm of the way Pardew approaches football in general.
Keep it tight at all costs and hope the lad up front can score on his own. That’s it. That’s his thing. It’s ineffective and it’s incredibly boring to watch. Keegan once remarked that we go to the football to be entertained, the Geordie equivalent to visiting the theatre; for the past four years we’ve been waiting for Godot.
It’s Pardew’s negative approach that has brought about all the hideous results we’ve had to endure during his time here. Head to the Dark Days section for a sample of the awful results we’ve had to endure due to his management.
What’s the solution then? Well here’s an idea. We’re Newcastle United, odds are we’re not going to win anything any time soon, right? So why not employ someone who’ll have a go? I’m not your typical Geordie stereotype who would prefer losing 4-3 to winning 1-0, in fact I don’t really believe those people exist, but there’s a middle ground to be taken here. Going out to beat teams like Reading at home isn’t going to get us relegated.
Football, when it’s good, can be a beautiful, life-affirming game to watch. Watching a well constructed move can be a powerful experience no matter which team is in possession. The game isn’t about keeping it tight and hoping for some ‘magic’. Magic, that’s what he calls it, as if the ability to attack a team is some unfathomable voodoo. This is the way Pardew looks at the game, he’s reduced it to a turgid, boring, passionless thing. Wins, when they do come, are usually by a one goal margin and nail-bitingly close as we take the lead and immediately relinquish all momentum in favour of backs to the wall defending. That might be acceptable at Old Trafford but it’s not acceptable, or the right thing to do, every week.
There’s plenty of first hand information available which backs up the way Pardew sets out his team, I don’t need to discuss four days a week working on defending on the training ground or quotes from current players stating the aim is to ‘keep it tight and nick one’. Its all out there for you to find yourself, I suggest you do so.
Have a read and make your own mind up. But don’t let anything you read, including this article, dictate what you think about the way the team plays. Watch the football, the football Newcastle United are playing these days. Watch closely, and don’t under any circumstances let Alan Pardew tell you what Newcastle United are about, he’s a liar.
It’s time to sack Pardew. In fact, that time came 600 days ago.