It’s likely that nobody loves Alan Pardew more than he loves himself. I very much doubt he can walk past a mirror without taking a sneaky peak at himself. Say what you like about the man, but he’s not your typical football manager.
But he appears to be a survivor. He needs football. He’d be lost were he lost to the game. That’s why he has put up with so much during his managerial career.
Having players signed without his knowledge at West Ham United. Putting up with a variety of madcap club owners and, most recently, hearing Newcastle fans call for him to be sacked prior to games being kicked off.
On Wednesday night Newcastle knocked Manchester City out of the League Cup, beating them 2-0 on their own patch. Newcastle fans celebrated in style and who can blame them. They have been through much in recent years. Supporters have seen the club buy a seemingly never ending supply of foreign footballers. A good number could not get away from Newcastle fast enough. The good ones use the north-east merely as an entry point to the Premier League. Before they had experienced their first Newcastle winter, they told their agent to get them a contract with a London based club.
Pardew has signed some failures and he has had some signed for him. He has somehow kept his job and, presumably, when owner Mike Ashley says “JUMP!”; Pardew asks: “How high?”
The ludicrously long contract Ashley offered him isn’t worth the paper it is written on, but there can be no doubt that the sooner he sacked Pardew, the more compensation the manager would be due to receive.
Ashley has paid out £7 million in compensation and tribunal settlements for past managers. He is in no rush to reward another one for what he sees as failure. Instead he has taken the responsibility for signing players out of the hands of Pardew. Cheif Scout Graham Carr, a man who loves footballers with flair, is in charge of acquistions. Pardew has made no secret over the years that he prefers players who can put themselves about, he goes for muscular over mesmerising.
But now all seems well. I actually saw Mike Ashley smile after Newcastle beat Spurs. Pardew now has three consecutive wins to build on.
There is no longer a need for Pardew to aim his head in the direction of opposition players. He had clearly reached breaking point the day he tried to headbutt a Hull City player, David Meyler. He’s a calmer man these days, at least outwardly. Unlike some other managers of times past, people who have never dealt with their anger issues (and as a direct consequence never worked in the game since losing their cool in public), Pardew appears to have learnt his lesson. It was most likely his children that shamed him into acting with more decorum on the touchline.
For his part Mike Ashley is branching out. He is now the man most likely to save Rangers from financial meltdown. In 2012 he bought for the princely sum of £1 (one pound) the naming rights – as yet unused – at Ibrox. He takes 49% of the profit from every merchandise sale at Rangers, with an option in place to take the remainder.
Rangers fans may not like Ashley any more than those who watch Newcastle week in, week out. But the fact remains that Rangers are losing millions of pounds each year and their best hope of a saviour right now comes in the rotund form of one Mike Ashley. It is very much in his interests to keep the Scottish club afloat.
So a man despised by many on the terraces, but admired in the financial quarter of the city of London, looks set to have one foot in the English league and the other planted north of the border. And yet only a year ago Pardew said that his boss doesn’t quite understand the game.
In 2013 he told Sky Sports: “Mike is a strong character who has been a success his whole business life and is a genius in that world, but when you come to football the logic doesn’t quite fit. He loves football but sometimes he cannot understand how it works and it both confuses and upsets him. And when he is upset he does things that aren’t brilliant for the club.”
Ashley was not pleased with those comments. But, once more, Pardew survived. Did he apologise to his boss? Did he bow and scrape?
There can be little doubt that the billionaire owner of Sports Direct knows his business and he has extended some working practices he has operated elsewhere to life at Newcastle United. He has brought in a bonus system that applies to all staff working for the club. He has modified existing pensions and private healthcare schemes. Now, if the team finishes the season in 11th place or below, nobody at the club will receive that money or those benefits.
Put yourself in the shoes of Alan Pardew. You are now responsible for the pension and healthcare benefits of everyone working at the club. Forget the star players for the moment. Their success on the pitch dictates whether or not someone working in the ticket office can access private healthcare or has to wait months for a consultation on the NHS. The pension pot of a backroom employee who might have worked at St. James’ Park for decades, will be at the mercy of if the manager can get some vastly overpaid footballers to win matches.
When things were going wrong, therefore, Pardew must have had enemies within, and not just on the terraces.
Not that you’d ever find me losing any sleep over his future. Pardew would get around £5 million pounds should the remaining six years of his contract be cancelled. But Alan Pardew has a point to prove. He wants to show the footballing world that he can manage successfully at the highest level.
To pinch a quote from the late Chelsea striker Peter Osgood (when talking of Rodney Marsh)… “If he was a bar of chocolate, he’d eat himself.”
Alan Pardew is not to everyone’s taste. And I very much doubt that three wins will lead to Newcastle fans sending him a letter of apology.
But, say what you like about the man, he’s a survivor in an industry where simply surviving can be the most important quality to have on your CV.