James Lawton: Pardew resists temptation to grave-dance with new Toon
Newcastle give supporters reason to cheer but they should not celebrate too soon
Monday 13 December 2010
Of course, you are right. The problem of Newcastle United is insoluble and if you forgot that for a moment there was the perfect antidote.
All you had to do was look into the mirror images of Mike Ashley and the best part of a 50,000 audience celebrating the goals that undid Liverpool, a club trying to repair themselves unsuccessfully after a relatively brief onslaught of human folly.
The man who gained most, on balance, was Alan Pardew, the latest temporary resident governor of the madhouse.
This might have been Joey Barton, the cheerfully recidivist personality who was head and shoulders above everyone else on the field before dragging himself down once more with his lewd reactions to the baiting of Fernando Torres, who would have been a lot better off berating himself for a quite wretched performance.
Pardew struck most of the right notes – not least when Liverpool gave up two goals with tragic incompetence in defence.
His celebrations were muted enough to suggest that he understood that anything more demonstrative might have been seen as dancing on the grave of his fellow professional Chris Hughton, which in a way it would have been but not with any shocking originality.
Grave-dancing is after all part of the contract, one where the patent leather shoes are a staple of the job handed out like castanets to a flamenco troupe.
Maybe Pardew overstated matters a little when he said his new players had put their lives on the line but then no one has ever been indicted for over-statement at St James' Park.
Plainly he did what was most sensible. He had a brief introductory chat with his fellow inmates on the basis that, if there was ever a time for some low-key acceptance that in an imperfect world the running of this particular football club was never likely to be a point of redeeming light, this was it. So they got on with the job rather impressively; indeed, with Barton bristling with good football intentions and Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan enjoying a party as much on the field as off it, there was absolutely no hardship in recalling some of the more striking performances under the departed Hughton.
One or two more efforts like this and the Toon Army will be embracing Pardew not as the latest recruit to the Cockney Mafia but a bona fide saviour.
Meanwhile, Liverpool's Roy Hodgson greeted Barton's goal and Newcastle's second with the kind of self-rumpling of his face which must have alerted both the good folks of St John's Ambulance and some of the men in white coats. It was a mime ferociously appropriate in a place where madness for so long has never been far away.
It was not so hard to understand, however. Hodgson must have felt a recent upward trend was leading him to the wild possibility of an away victory, especially when the relentless Dirk Kuyt scored an equaliser and Ashley and his little cabal in the directors' box briefly looked rather less like the fat cats supping their cream. In fact, it was almost time on the terraces to fish out again those Cockney Mafia signs when Torres was sent clear for a chance which in another life he might have buried without a passing thought.
Tragic-comic defence did for Liverpool and of course Ashley, and the fans, some of whom are said to despise him, were celebrating once more.
Celebrating quite what: a good performance, no doubt, a shaft of light into the future, a new brimming of unbreakable hope? Take your pick Bonnie Lads, but best keep those signs handy.
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