James Lawton: Pardew's integrity is welcome antidote to chauvinism of the managers' association

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Another bonus is that coming to praise Alan Pardew and his West Ham United is not to join automatically the wearisome, even disgraceful chauvinistic and closed-shop bleatings of the League Managers' Association.

Pardew is his own man with his own values and if he was drawn into an argument he couldn't win when he dared to challenge the selection policies of the great Arsène Wenger, the all-powerful coach of England, sorry, Arsenal, it has done nothing to diminish the splendour of his season.

There was no powerful advocacy of Pardew, or his equally impressive fellow Englishman Paul Jewell, for the England job from the LMA and when the association's favourite son, Steve McClaren, was appointed all that was lacking was the throwing of palm fronds. It was the "perfect" appointment we were told, an assertion that retained all the sturdy consistency of a tin of tomato puree the day after the tactical and emotional meltdown of McClaren's team in the Uefa Cup final. Still, the big encouragement is that Pardew and Jewell have announced that there are significant stirrings of flair, courage and ambition, albeit controlled with some modesty, in a new generation of English managers.

The elevation of the importance of coaching certificates by the LMA hit an outrageous level this week when Newcastle's appointment of Glenn Roeder was seen by the organisation not as some obvious reward for a job well done but a "kick in the teeth" for their membership. Had they been wise the LMA would have stayed away from the Newcastle situation. It is not, after all, their finest battleground.

When Sir Bobby Robson was treated so appallingly by the club, protests at the cavalry charge of applications from the LMA were notably absent. Instead of endless, powerless posturing, the real call is for a little genuine backbone, starting with a properly enforced rule that clubs who have failed properly to settle contracts should be boycotted by all LMA members. It would also be nice to hear about some concerted campaign to battle the epidemic of cheating which is demoralising so many genuine fans.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we can only celebrate the Pardew story - and its meaning in the history of one of the best club traditions in the English game. It will not be at the forefront of reflection at the Millennium Stadium if West Ham do overcome the formidable method and unity of Rafa Benitez's team today, but of course the happy souls who would be sending bubbles up into the Welsh sky came close to driving away their new hero. Pardew looked like a goner in the face of a tide of disdain, but he held his nerve, made crucial signings and developed a team steeped in the uplifting belief that every game has to be taken on its merits.

The consequence has been beyond the dreams of the so recently moribund Hammers. What price a ninth place in the Premiership, automatic European qualification and maybe another FA Cup triumph for a club which had so relentlessly stripped its assets with the sale of such as Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick, Glenn Johnson, Frédéric Kanouté? Pardew pulled it off with nerve and unswerving belief in the value of positive football. His ability to make a £6m investment in the striker Dean Ashton was just one reward.

Winning at Highbury, on the night of Sol Campbell's retreat from the game, was another. It showed a team willing to compete at the highest level with a sharp-edged conviction, with notable performances from players like Nigel Reo-Coker and Bobby Zamora. West Ham may be somewhat hobbled today by the likely absence of Matthew Etherington, an effective winger who has provided that staple of all winning teams, genuine width and bite. West Ham were not so successful at Anfield in Premiership action, but it took a few volcanic moments from Steven Gerrard finally to subdue them, and then by just one goal.

Losing to Benitez's Liverpool again today will be no disgrace, It can happen to anyone, even Jose Mourinho. One point, though, can be made with some confidence. The chances are that West Ham will be recognisably West Ham, a team of values and some strong sense of the game's inherent beauty and adventure. Alan Pardew has, quite brilliantly, gone back to a thrilling future.

Naz should reflect on Floyd Patterson's tragic fate

The Prince Naz story wasn't supposed to pass through a prison cell. In the ring it wasn't supposed to finish with a humiliating beating by Marco Antonio Barrera, who administered not only a lesson in boxing but also style and manliness.

There is no disposition here to dance on the disaster which came to Naseem Hamed yesterday with his 15-month imprisonment for a serious driving offence.

Indeed, the hope is that he will emerge with a surer sense of what is most important in life. His bragging, his often grotesque celebration of shamefully easy victories, his refusal to learn properly a trade for which he was extravagantly gifted, his self-indulgence, all constituted a mockery of the old idea of the proper demeanour of a real champion.

One problem was that nobody ever said no; not until his American TV paymasters decided that he could no longer take easy money without doing the work and taking some risks - and then it was too late.

If Naseem conjures any power of reflection, he may note that in his time of personal catastrophe, another former world champion, Floyd Patterson, died a sad and lonely death imprisoned by the curse of Alzheimer's disease.

A troubled but warm and charming man, Patterson knew terrible pain before slipping into his bleak years of separation from reality. Once in his farm in upstate New York, he recalled how badly he felt after being beaten so easily by Sonny Liston. At one point in his career he felt such shame he wore a false beard. Frank Sinatra once dismissed him from his presence because he was deemed an unworthy champion unfit to brush with the famed "Rat Pack".

Naseem is still a young man of wealth who can make something of his life. It is something for him to ponder, maybe, if anyone should draw to his attention the sad fate of Floyd Patterson.

No justice over stolen tickets

Those of us deeply challenged by the age of electronics may have struggled to come up with a solution to the sad prospect at the Millennium Stadium today of 1,600 empty Cup final seats.

But we can ask a reasonable question. If those stolen tickets had been heading for the corporate market rather than ordinary fans, would a little bit more of an effort have been made to sort out the problem?

A cynical, rhetorical enquiry, no doubt, but the culture of today's sport insists that it be made.

Sugar leaves a bitter aftertaste

In the glow of his Bafta award, Sir Alan Sugar basked unbeguilingly in attention that must have seemed another planet away as he built his fortune down the dusty, obscure and, for the general public, hugely unthrilling corridors of commerce. He was asked to reflect on his time in football. "A waste of my life," he snapped.

A waste of his life? If he had ever given any hint of a sense of humour, you might have suspected he was joking. Football gave Sugar a taste of fame, a glamour that does not attach itself to men of trade, however successful, the chance to sell a lot of satellite dishes, and a very nifty profit on his sale of Spurs.

However, many in football were not prepared to embrace his chintzy philosophy of turning a profit in a part of life that is supposed to have other priorities, in theory at least. Part of the problem, of course, was that the game, for all its faults, recognised a bullying, unsympathetic presence in a sport that has captivated the imagination of the the world and persuaded the great novelist Albert Camus that in one game it could teach a man most of what he needed to know about life. We do not need to guess what goalkeeper Camus would have made of Sir Alan Sugar.