Newcastle United have paved the way for Alan Pardew to become their next manager. The 49-year-old is expected to be installed within 48 hours in what looks set to be a swift conclusion to the search for a successor to Chris Hughton, who was unexpectedly sacked on Monday.
That the appointment will meet with an at best lukewarm reception from supporters who are still coming to terms with the shock departure of the popular Hughton is something of an under-statement. Securing a high-profile replacement for Hughton, who lasted just 14 months in the job, would have gone some way to winning fans round, but owner Mike Ashley's decision to opt for a candidate who four months ago was sacked by League One Southampton goes nowhere near to appeasing an increasingly restless crowd.
With more than 500 games to his name in an 11-year managerial career spanning four clubs, Pardew at least boasts the experience which Ashley claimed Hughton lacked in his major reasoning for the decision to rid himself of the 51-year-old Irishman, a move met with almost universal derision from the football community. The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, yesterday became the latest to question the wisdom of Ashley's actions. "Sometimes, it doesn't always look rational," Wenger said. "I'm sad for Chris, but we are in a job where we depend on the decisions of the board above us."
Pardew, who is believed to have met Ashley in central London for talks last week, has confided in close friends in recent weeks that he expected to return to management before the end of the year. He is looking to rebuild his career following his departure from Southampton at the end of August amid talk of dressing-room unrest, having previously led the club to Johnstone's Paint Trophy success at Wembley last season and narrowly missed out on the League One play-offs despite a 10-point deduction.
Sources close to the Wimbledon-born former midfielder would only reiterate that he remains "strongly interested" in the post as Pardew prepares to become the sixth manager of Ashley's three-and-a-half-year reign that has been anything but mundane. However, in a turbulent business career the multi-millionaire sportswear retailer has developed a thick enough skin to deal with the inevitable backlash from supporters his latest appointment is likely to meet with.
Martin Jol had been strongly linked with the vacant role after resigning as manager of Ajax within hours of Hughton's departure on Monday. But that development looks increasingly coincidental after the Dutchman distanced himself from a return to the Premier League, with a move to Germany on the cards for the former Tottenham manager. Sources close to Alan Curbishley, another potential candidate, insist the former West Ham manager is "highly unlikely" to be the next man in charge at St James' Park.
Betting on the new manager was suspended on Monday night after a significant amount of money was placed on Pardew, who is set to take a watching brief for Saturday's Premier League visit by Liverpool, where the hosts will aim to stem a five-match winless run which has seen them drop into the bottom half of the table. Peter Beardsley, who is unlikely to face the press before the weekend, will take charge of the team, assisted by fellow coach Steve Stone.
After a playing career boasting more than 350 games for Crystal Palace, where he was a beaten FA Cup finalist in 1990, Charlton, Barnet and Reading, Pardew moved into management with the Royals in 1999. His CV includes leading West Ham to promotion to the Premier League in 2005 and the FA Cup final 12 months later, where they lost to Liverpool.
He was sacked by West Ham in December 2006 and also suffered relegation from the Premier League that season after almost immediately being installed at Charlton. Newcastle are in a far less parlous state than the south London club were back then, but whereas Pardew was partially absolved of blame for Charlton going down, any significant downturn in fortunes this time will be of his own making. There are plenty of people waiting to say "told you so" to Ashley if it does.