Alan Pardew last night delivered a trenchant warning to any potential new owner of West Ham United that they will face "a wall up against them if they try to change" the club. The manager was speaking after the draw with a resurgent Aston Villa in which he handed a debut to striker Carlos Tevez, as a second-half substitute, with fellow Argentine Javier Mascherano remaining on the bench.
Pardew stated that he had not been trying to send out "a statement of intent" in leaving the players, who arrived so dramatically on the final day of the transfer window, out of his starting line-up. There had been speculation that it was written into their contracts that they had to play if fit. "I made a football decision," he added.
However there was a clear "message" that Pardew wanted to get across - especially as the arrival of the two World Cup stars has led to discussions being held with Kia Joorabchian, the businessman who helped to bring them to Upton Park and who was at the ground yesterday, over a possible takeover.
"I wanted to give a message to the fans today," Pardew said. "At the moment it is in flux, there could be a possible take-over, there could be the same regime that we have had here that I've worked really well with - with Terry Brown [chairman] and Paul Aldridge [managing director] - we've worked really well and taken the club forward quickly.
"The integrity, the history of this club, I'm going to protect it. And I can only protect it as manager of this football club. And that message I tried to get across today. The Trevor Brooking era right through to the Tony Cottee to what you could call the Hayden Mullins and Marlon Harewood and Nigel Reo-Coker era. What we are now.
"Whoever comes in will have a wall up against them if they try to change it. I'm not going to accept that we change what we are about." Pardew said he had spoken to fans during the week and they "have expressed to me that they know I'm in an important position in terms of looking after the club".
He admitted that the circumstances surrounding the transfers of Tevez and Mascherano, who have been signed without, right now, a fee being paid and who may stay only one season, had led to a "circus" of media interest. "I'm glad it's now over," he added hopefully, before saying that it had clearly affected his other players. "We looked like we were carrying a bit of baggage from the week," he said. "Certain people were feeling the pressure.
"The fault was with us today in terms of the 11 players who went out there. I just felt they played five per cent tentatively and that was enough to lose what we are about. It's a big job for me and my staff to remind the players to forget all that. What was important was to get this game out of the way and come out of it with our heads held high. In terms of the performance it was low down in the scale of one to 10. But we came out of it with credit."
Beyond yesterday's game Pardew expanded on what he hoped would now happen, especially if new owners do come in. "We've always been about playing the right way and have done it in a style that befits the history of this club," he said. "I always think my glass is half full rather than half empty and thinking, 'It would be great if I could build this club with extra finance'. I like to think we've done a good job with picking up players from close to home, but now we can perhaps look world-wide. Certainly the two guys [Tevez and Mascherano] have done enough in training to impress not just the staff but fellow players. They are very, very good players and there's a lot more to come from them.
"We'd have loved for the two guys to come on and change the game and won it, but it doesn't always work like that. We have to be patient and the guys who have got me here, I'm not going to lose faith in them."
There were consoling words from Pardew for Harewood, when he was withdrawn for Tevez, and after he had endured the kind of performance delivered by a player low on confidence and unsure whether he has a first-team future.
Pardew said he would have to also work hard on Tevez's fitness. "He's a player we need to see evolve," he said. Hopefully, the manager will be given the time - and the backing - to fulfil that.