Alan Pardew head-butt: Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley shows he now trusts his manager
Mad moment will not cost Pardew his job as he sings from owner’s hymn sheet
“We do not have Qatar money. We do not have that sort of finance, so it is a slow build, keep getting better, keep getting stronger. Hopefully our fans realise that.” This was the most significant moment in the relationship of Newcastle United’s owner Mike Ashley and manager Alan Pardew over the weekend. Not the powder-keg explosion when Pardew reacted to the antagonism of the former Sunderland player David Meyler.
On Saturday evening, there were suggestions that Pardew was set for the sack, but they were not coming from inside St James’ Park. Pardew is getting it right. Saturday was a moment of stupidity – one that has context.
Had he had his moment of madness in the shadow of last summer, he would have lost his job. Then, his standing with Ashley was low. He had chased Europa League success and risked the Premier League status of the club. Joe Kinnear, of all people, was parachuted in as a director of football. He was there to keep an eye on Pardew, to weaken him, to offer an alternative – certainly at first – if the manager became so riled by his initial undermining that he walked. There was big money at stake, compensation complications that go with a long-term contract.
Ashley and Pardew both kept their nerve. Neither man buckled. Pardew, little by little, has got back on track. He has remembered the club mantras about caution not chaos, about dancing to the owner’s tune, and not that of the supporters.
That is not easy on Tyneside. Newcastle is a one-club city where the club dominates all thought. Living among it and staying detached is difficult, as Derek Llambias, the managing director who resigned after Kinnear’s appointment, found. Following Ashley’s masterplan is easier without feeling at close quarters the relentless hunger of the club’s fans.
Newcastle released their accounts last Tuesday. There was no fanfare. A £9.9m profit was recorded. The best player, Yohan Cabaye, had been sold. Player spending was not huge. Pardew had to ride out a nine-game run which yielded one win (following one of seven wins from nine) amid losing his captain. He had to bite his tongue, and this time he did.
“The finances of the club are in good shape,” he said on Friday. “As I have said before, we know we have to do some work in the summer after losing Cabaye and we would like to think we will have to spend some of that in the summer. The board has done well to get those figures and we look forward to the next period of, hopefully, our growth.”
Pardew would like to kick on and chase the Champions League. But he has learned. This is Ashley’s club and this will be done the Ashley way. Breaking from the plan is not advisable.
Kinnear didn’t get it right and has gone. Pardew must tread a cautious path, and it has arguably taken three years for him to get there.
Whatever happened in the fierce adrenalin-fuelled seconds of that explosion in the 72nd minute of Saturday’s clash at the KC Stadium was to the detriment of Pardew’s career. He will never be allowed to forget it.
The intensity of that action – and the first push was by Meyler – was that of a man who was a glazier playing non-league football for Whyteleafe and Epsom & Ewell until he was 22. Pardew did not become a League player with Crystal Palace until he was 26. That sharpens desire. If he cherishes what he has, it is because he has not always had it. He had to fight to make it as a player, and he has had to fight to make it as a manager.
He was booted out by West Ham, Charlton and Southampton before Ashley took a characteristic gamble in December 2010. Pardew has been putting out fires ever since, fighting his corner.
He had to take on a powerful dressing room that included Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Alan Smith when he succeeded the popular Chris Hughton. He achieved it. There was a ticking time-bomb when the owner sold Andy Carroll after Pardew had said he would stay. The ground was renamed, for two transfer windows the club has remained idle, making only two loan signings. He has asked for more British-based players to be signed.
The owner takes his advice in the transfer market from the chief scout, Graham Carr. The pressure on the manager of Newcastle United is unique. Ask Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness or Ruud Gullit, who all failed. Into that melting-pot, which has fuelled Pardew to have vicious pitchside rows with Martin O’Neill and Manuel Pellegrini as well as a reckless push on linesman Peter Kirkup, stepped a former Sunderland player.
Do not under-estimate the North-east element to that clash in Hull. Sunderland had a cup final on Sunday. It has been a stick to smash Newcastle with ever since the dramatic penalty shoot-out victory at Manchester United. Meyler was a Sunderland player for five years. That is enough to be well schooled in the hatred that exists between the two clubs. It is enough to colour how you feel about Newcastle.
Meyler, in his haste to retrieve the ball, would never have dreamed of pushing Jose Mourinho or Arsène Wenger if they had been stood in the visiting technical area, as he did Pardew. From that point on Pardew loses any defence. To have pushed his head into the face of Meyler is something that will haunt his life, never mind his career.
But it was never enough to cost him his job, not to an owner who now has a manager singing from his hymn sheet.
It cost Pardew a £100,000 club fine and it will most likely cost him any chance of moving upward from St James’ Park when the unique pressure cooker of managing Newcastle United is finally turned off for him.
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