How Pardew won Toon over
Newcastle manager tells Martin Hardy how his attention to detail – from carefully selecting his staff to reading the right books – has helped convince an initially sceptical Tyneside public the club is on the up
'Ladies and gentlemen," the speaker begins. "I'd like to introduce our special guest, Alan Pardew, who's doing a fantastic job."
There are a couple of cries of "Hear, hear" from a packed room, the applause starts, arms go in the air and mobile phones take pictures and start videoing. Those at the back stand on chairs for a better view.
We are at the new home of Gateshead Redheugh FC, where an innovative facility that caters for young footballers – as well as the homeless – is officially being opened.
"Well done to everyone who's been involved," says the Newcastle United manager. "It's fantastic to have a facility like this. It will help with the great work for players to learn discipline here. I hope it's thoroughly enjoyable for everybody."
There is genuine, warm applause.
More mobile phones click, still on camera mode; local television cameras jostle for a decent shot before Pardew heads to the brief sanctuary of the buffet room to talk about a period of his life he will never forget.
It is 13 months since he walked down the tunnel at St James' Park for the first time as the home club's manager, for a live televised game against Liverpool. Then he cut a lonely figure, not lacking in confidence or belief, but a man walking head-on into a storm, following his appointment as Chris Hughton's successor. The blinding flashlights then belonged to a huge group of professional photographers as he climbed the final steps that lead to the home dugout. He gave a brief wave and readied himself for work.
"The Liverpool game seems so long ago I can hardly remember it," he says now. "My over-riding desire at that time was to win the game, if I'm honest. I did not really notice too much that was going on; the media and everyone else probably noticed more than I did. We managed to win and that was an important win.
"Of course, of course, I had to win people over. It was difficult at the start and then losing Andy Carroll was a big blow as well but I think as a manager I've matured over the years, in different circumstances, and that has helped because this is a much bigger club and you have to understand that. There is a responsibility that comes with it.
"No, I didn't understand the esteem you are held in as manager of this football club. It's like me trying to explain to Papiss [Cissé , Newcastle's new signing] what the No 9 shirt means. You have to experience it. This is another experience for me.
"It has been nice to get a positive reaction tonight because obviously it's a reflection that we're doing OK and long may that continue. I've had nice comments from people here. I think they appreciate the team is an honest one. Hopefully we can continue that in the second part of the season.
"The important thing is I have good people around me who are working very, very hard and more importantly great players, because you can't have success without great players."
Back in 2006, Pardew, then manager of West Ham, said: "I firmly believe that in the development of any team there is a tipping point, when all the good things you have done start to produce the results."
It was a reference to the influence of the author Malcolm Gladwell and his book The Tipping Point: How little things can make a difference. The premise of which, to Pardew at least, is that you get the technical details right until you reach the point where everyone feeds off each other's confidence, where the club starts to function like a well-oiled machine.
Back in November, at the start of the week leading up to Newcastle's home game with Chelsea, a match given more prominence by United's excellent start to the season, a picture was put on a wall deep within the club's training ground. In its frame were the following words: "Chelsea FC have lost three of their last four games." Every member of Newcastle's first-team squad had to pass the picture numerous times each day. Ultimately, they lost the match, but Pardew's side hit the woodwork three times, had two shots cleared off the line and had a very early and justified shout for a red card against David Luiz turned down. Whatever they lacked that day, it was certainly not belief.
The tipping point for Gateshead Redheugh 1957 FC – which has given the footballing world Paul Gascoigne, Don Hutchison and Andy Carroll to name but three – has been the coming together of the Football Foundation, the club itself (and the 17 teams it runs), Durham County FA, the Premier League, the FA, Four Housing Group and The Cyrenians to create a £2.7m facility that offers a chance to its footballers and accommodation for 20 potentially homeless young adults.
It also goes some way to pinpointing the methods that have been undertaken to make Newcastle the surprise package of the season.
Pardew has left few stones unturned since taking over. Earlier in his reign there was a talk-in at Whitley Bay Football Club at which he faced every question from the floor. At the club's training ground in the summer, a huge amount of work went into updating the facilities. By his side are now trusted lieutenants, John Carver, Steve Stone and Andy Woodman.
"There are lots of books I read and that are important to me in terms of what I have established my vision of really," he adds. "It is important through events like this that the community is seen as growing.
"The Tipping Point makes a strong point in the book that the broken windows policy they had in New York, which was just to fix windows and fix the seats, made everyone think the community was being looked after and suddenly the murder rate went down. That is an extreme example but this is an example of that. Look, there is a recession, there are tough times, but here's a new facility – look after it, take care of it and I'm sure the young people here will respect it, and it is worth respecting.
"I made it clear that there were certain tolerances I wouldn't accept at the training ground. As you go along you can put in discipline in the training ground that becomes important to the football club. I think that does happen and it is important.
"You have to have good staff and good players who respond to you. Fortunately I have had a good response from everyone on the training ground. John Carver [Pardew's No 2, who is with him at the opening] has been the biggest employee for me. He has connections all throughout this community. I know what the word on the street is. I know what the word is in the local football community and he can explain to me the importance of events like this.
"You like to think 13 months down the line we have a style of play that everyone knows and understands. That is important. Looking at those finer details can help you dig out a win here and there. We have managed to do that this year more than we did last year."
Today Pardew takes his side – and Newcastle now feel like his side – to Brighton in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Back in 2006, his West Ham were leading the FA Cup final against Liverpool as the game went past 90 minutes. If they had held on, he would have been the first English manager to lift the trophy for 11 years. Steven Gerrard scored in injury time and West Ham were defeated on penalties.
It has taken six years for his lot to rise again to similar levels, to the point he is now included on the shortlist for the forthcoming England position.
"You have to have trust and enough faith in your ability," he adds. "I believe I am good at what I do and I need to prove that; that is what I have tried to do here.
"The FA Cup levels the playing field and it gives us the opportunity of winning a trophy and also of getting into Europe. If players, from whatever country, can't grasp that, then it's my job to make sure they do. I've been stressing the importance of this competition. There is still the second half of the season to play and all to play for.
"It will be nice to see the guys from Africa come back fit and well [Senegal's early elimination from the African Cup of Nations means Demba Ba and Cissé could return against Blackburn on Wednesday]. Then we will see what we can do. The two guys coming back early is a big bonus for us. I am excited by the new player. He's got a really good chance of being a success here.
"It's been nice to have a little break like this and see a few smiley faces, and then it's back to business."
It has rarely been anything but.
Alan Pardew was at the opening of the new state-of-the-art sports pavilion at Gateshead Redheugh 1957 FC. The club worked in partnership with Durham County FA to secure a £102,000 grant from the Football Foundation. The pavilion forms part of a £2.7m scheme which will provide a training centre for the homeless.
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