Alan Pardew is still in what is affectionately known as the honeymoon period in his new job at West Ham. However, six weeks into this East End romance, things have not gone as smoothly as the new couple would have wished. Indeed, this has been more like a honeymoon from hell.
It is as if the plane tickets were destroyed in the wash, the flights were delayed and the hotel is a building site with views over the motorway. The bride may not have eloped with the best man but Pardew's initiation into life as the Hammers manager has been less than happy. His record since he took over in mid-October is played eight, won nil and lost two.
The most recent match was a sorry 1-1 draw at Wimbledon, the bottom side in the First Division, on Tuesday night. They say bad things come in threes, and along with those results you can add a five-match suspension for their leading goalscorer, Jermain Defoe, and the imminent end to Trevor Brooking's working connections at Upton Park. When Brooking takes over his new post at the Football Association, he will have to resign as a non-executive director of the club he has served as a player and caretaker manager, not forgetting his unpaid status as inspiration to thousands of West Ham fans.
Despite all this Pardew, 42, remains bullish and confident that his methods will pay off. He said yesterday: "In the long term the things I'm putting in place will bear fruit. But when that kicks in you can never tell. Any manager will tell you it takes time.
"Certainly I'm looking in from the sidelines and it's not quite how I want to see it but I can't fault the players' efforts, they're trying to do what I want them to do. But for a few soft goals we could be in a different position to the one we're in now."
The West Ham manager's seat was one that, once it became vacant after Glenn Roeder's sacking in early September, Pardew was desperate to get. The former Crystal Palace player simply resigned from his four-year stint in charge of Reading in order to talk to the Hammers, with Brooking an important part of that process.
He was duly appointed but because of the nature of his sudden departure from the Berkshire club, he had to sit out six weeks in limbo on "gardening leave" before he was able to take over at West Ham.
Reading fans never really took to Pardew and nor did they give him the credit he deserved for turning that club from a side that was haunting the nether regions of the Second Division to one which reached the play-offs of the First Division last season. Nevertheless, a glance at the table might tell them they are better off without him, as West Ham lie ninth, one below Reading.
The question now is whether Pardew can bring an instant return to the Premiership for the Hammers. Naturally, that process will speed up if they can register that elusive first victory, although today's opponents, third-placed Wigan, are not exactly lambs to the slaughter.
He said yesterday: "On a personal level, I really want a win for the people around me. They want to have faith in their leadership. They've been terrific and I want to give them something to smile about, and so they can look forward to Christmas." West Ham will hope they do not have to wait that long to win, but more difficult fixtures are looming, against Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion. They should already have beaten the Midlanders, having led 3-0 before losing 4-3. They have also let leads slip against Coventry and Wimbledon, but Pardew, who has brought in three new players, just sees it as part of the inevitable teething troubles.
"It's a bit of a culture shock for the players with me coming in, and they've assured me there aren't any problems," he said. "I know that the guys are with me.
"The pressure that is increasing is a little unfortunate. It's important we get the win. Then we can kick on." They say that the hard work starts after the honeymoon ends. For Pardew, he has got to hope fervently that is not the case.Reuse content