In his time at Newcastle United, Alan Pardew has often looked like a man who has just shut the door on a nasty family row. The kind of row when things are said that cannot be unsaid and people feel diminished. Then out comes Alan, putting a brave face on it, trying to mouth the right thing but ultimately unable to hide the trauma of his previous conversation.
Selling Andy Carroll, bringing in Joe Kinnear, changing the name of the stadium, selling Yohan Cabaye, Kinnear resigning: Pardew has been through all those Mike Ashley decisions with the additional indignity of being the man pushed out onto the stage to be the public face of it all. He has had no choice, really. He was given the job when he was unemployed and out of favour in English football and forced to accept it on Ashley’s terms.
Pardew crossed a line on Saturday. He did something no manager can hope to do and maintain the dignity and authority that comes with the position, however much the position at Newcastle has been cheapened. For a long time, he has looked like a man on the edge. When he head-butted David Meyler, Pardew did not so much vacate the moral high ground as fling himself off it. It had all the finesse and style of a Sports Direct basket of £2 Donnay tennis socks.
It would be pointless for the Football Association to push for a ban that only barred Pardew from the touchline, when Paul Ince received a five-match stadium ban earlier this season for abusing a referee. The FA has it within its power to petition a commission to ban a manager from “football-related activity”, which would prevent Pardew from coaching his side full stop. It would be a far more devastating blow to him than preventing him from being pitchside on match days, by which point, most managers tell you, the crucial work has already been done.
A ban from the pitch, from the stand and from the training ground is what Pardew deserves and it will be another test of the FA’s fortitude to see how far they push these measures. The received wisdom is that they will go no further than the stadium ban. Occasionally football reaches a point where it has to say: no more. Denuded of so much of its power, obliged to consult the clubs on all rule changes, the FA must stand for something. And managers who head-butt opposition players is no bad place to start.
It is with no great joy that one calls for the toughest possible measures against this haunted, habitually undermined manager who seems terminally braced for the next blow. It would only open the door once again for his departure from the club, a position that has flat-lined and been resuscitated more times than one cares to remember in recent times.
Graeme Souness, another former Newcastle manager, also combustible, described Pardew’s position at the club as “untenable”, implying that he should either be sacked or resign. You could have made a good case that his position was untenable on occasions even before Saturday. But sacked? It would sit uncomfortably for a club that has done so much to contribute to Pardew’s increasingly erratic behaviour over the last few years.
At times it has felt like the club have made decisions primarily to antagonise the manager and the supporters, and, by and large, they have succeeded, the appointment of Kinnear being the tour de force. There has not been a man less suited to the requirement of diplomacy and gentle persuasion since Alan Partridge was selected as the chief hostage negotiator in that fine cinematic adventure Alpha Papa.
Yet if Ashley had wanted to sack Pardew, without the compensation due on an eight-year contract, then Saturday was his chance, and he chose not to take it. The owner has a plan, we are told, and the fact that the last accounts showed a profit would suggest that he believes it is working.
It told you all you needed to know about the Newcastle statement announcing Pardew’s £100,000 fine that there was no name to it, no words from Ashley nor anyone else in a position of authority. Since Derek Llambias’s departure there has been no managing director appointed and Kinnear has not been replaced as director of football. The most senior administrators appear to be the club secretary Lee Charnley and finance director John Irving. But who knows?
As comparisons go, the former West Germany international Norbert Meier was dismissed as manager by his club Duisburg nine years ago for head-butting Albert Streit of Cologne, and banned for three months by the DFB. Jose Mourinho’s eye-poke on Tito Vilanova was even worse, but he kept his job with Real Madrid. Football clubs tend to do what is expedient. It is up to the FA to show some leadership.
If there is mitigation in the pressure Pardew is under, it should be pointed out that many managers live with worse and do not behave so deplorably. While we are on the subject of blame, the shove on Pardew by Meyler was needless and unedifying. Unfortunately, Pardew also has to acknowledge that he has previous with, among others, Manuel Pellegrini, Arsène Wenger, Martin O’Neill and the linesman Peter Kirkup.
How did he get to this point? The general view of Pardew is that after the 2006 FA Cup final he lost the plot at West Ham. What followed was a plummet down the divisions that has been typical of bright young British managers, who become damaged goods far too quickly. Charlton Athletic, a club in freefall when he joined, eventually sacked him. He got Southampton close to the League One play-offs in 2010 despite a 10-point deduction and was sacked again.
Out of work for more than a year, at Newcastle he has been forced to accept the indignities that came with being a manager in need of a job. It by no means excuses his behaviour, but the careers of the men on the touchlines of Premier League football have become ever more volatile and the fight for survival increasingly brutal. Pardew knows better than most how quickly a promising career can go up in smoke.
Nevertheless, this was a bad moment for Pardew and with Newcastle hoping to bury the episode with a fine – this being English football, it is always about money – it behoves the FA to make clear to Pardew what the standards are.
Players backed Campbell ahead of Beckham
When Sol Campbell says he should have been made England captain he is surely talking about the day David Beckham was appointed after Euro 2000. A few years ago I interviewed a prominent England footballer who said the same – off the record of course – that Campbell, not Beckham, should have been Alan Shearer’s successor.
In the extracts from his authorised biography, Campbell seems more aggrieved about Michael Owen being given the job on the odd occasion. But there was a feeling among many players in the squad that Campbell should have taken precedence over Beckham when the latter was given the job, first by caretaker manager Peter Taylor and then by Sven Goran Eriksson. At the time, Beckham and Campbell both had 36 caps, and Campbell had twice captained the team already.
Campbell may well be derided as a crank or bitter in the weeks to come. But he was by no means alone in believing he should have been England captain.
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