Pardew's restless ambition looks beyond West Ham

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The Independent Football

In employing Alan Pardew, West Ham United are hoping for just one thing: here is another David Moyes. The imprimatur of the driven Scot at Everton has been such across British football that every club in search of a new manager is looking for his clone. Hence the employment of Chris Coleman at Fulham and the temptation of Pardew from the Royals of Reading to the Boleyn Ground.

Pardew, the former Crystal Palace midfielder best known, much to his irritation, for scoring the winning goal in that epic FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool in 1990, certainly talks a good game, even if he did not necessarily play one. But it may well be that he is the real deal.

"My ambition isn't just to manage in the Premiership. My ambition is to manage a top club," he said towards the end of last season in a series of interviews that betrayed his naked ambition and the frustration he felt with his fabulously wealthy but, to some, parsimonious chairman, John Madejski. It was as if Pardew was placing himself in the shop window, admitting he suffered, like his employer, from a "big ego".

Hammers fans beware. A big club in Pardew's eyes may well not play in claret and blue. They could be just a stepping stone for a man who talks of managing in the Champions' League and who seeks out the company of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger, attending Highbury as often as he can. Pardew muses over taking loan signings from Barcelona and dreams of one day pitching up at the Nou Camp, or even being England coach.

Such naked ambition can be dangerous - just ask another former Reading manager and one-time Fergie protégé, Mark McGhee.

Nevertheless, the 42-year-old Pardew is widely regarded as one of the brightest managers in the country after four years at Reading which began with the club 23rd in the Second Division and struggling to clear up the debris left by Tommy Burns. Last year he narrowly missed out on a second successive promotion.

Pardew wondered then about the club's ambition. When he asked for a new contract, he was told he would have to take a pay-cut. He signed, but insisted on a clause, now infamous, that allowed him to speak to any Premiership club.

Pardew is bright and innovative - he took the extraordinary step of inviting journalists into the dressing-room after a match so they could interview his players. No one knew who was more stunned. He employs a sports scientist, a personal psychologist and is studying for his Uefa Pro Licence.

He will need all his skills at West Ham. Although now making a decent fist of the Nationwide League after an initial stutter that finally saw the removal of Glenn Roeder, the Hammers are in need of strong leadership. Discipline has not been great at a club regarded by many as having grown bloated and pampered by life in the Premiership. Pardew will also have to cope with the instability at West Ham after the undoubtedly well run affairs at the Madejski stadium.

But the true test will be how he deals with the few big-name players still there - and how they respond to him.


1961: Born 18 July in Wimbledon.

1987: Signs for Crystal Palace from Yeovil.

1990: Scores the winner as Palace beat Liverpool 4-3 in the FA Cup semi-final.

1991: Signs for Charlton on a free transfer. Also has spells at Tottenham and Barnet.

1998: Joins Reading, initially as a player.

October 1999: Takes over as manager of Reading from Tommy Burns.

April 2002: A 1-1 draw at Brentford secures automatic promotion from Second Division.

2003: Reading finish fourth in First Division but lose to Wolves in play-off semi-finals.

10 September: Resigns as manager of Reading in order to speak to West Ham.

18 September: High Court rules he is free to be Hammers manager from 18 October.