Newcastle United's winning run puts spring back in Alan Pardew's step

Toon back on track after 1-0 victory over Liverpool

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The Independent Online

The whirring of mowers filled the stadium. There were six in all, pushed by men creating long shadows against the glow of bright lights beaming down from the stands that so dominate a city’s skyline and its heart.

A man in a suit walked pitchside. Earlier, players had spoken eagerly about another great result. It almost felt as if Newcastle United had gone back to a bygone era, when winning hearts and minds mattered.

There was a smile from a grass-cutter to the man in the black suit. Alan Pardew responded with a clenched fist. There was a slowing of the cutters, a brief conversation, an offer of congratulations. Pardew smiled and walked off into the Tyneside night.

There have been spells, plenty of them, when that looked like it would not be possible again.

He had already spoken of a city of extremes, of joy in victory and despair in defeat. There has been a lot of the latter but a run of three victories, against Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool, has had a galvanising effect.

Pardew had stopped as he walked towards those cutting the grass to express his displeasure with a piece I had written before the first of those victories, at White Hart Lane a week before. The tone had been too negative, he argued. I replied there was precious little positivity around Tyneside before the run, despite a late win against Leicester.

Ayoze-Perez-2.jpg
Ayoze Perez scores for Newcastle against Liverpool

He accepted that but what rankled was the lack of mention of the strong runs he has been in charge for or the fifth-place finish of two and- a half years ago. That did not feel quite so long ago at half past four on Saturday night, as the spring in his stride carried him out of the stadium.

That Pardew is back arguing his corner is significant. This was how he entered the region four years ago. He could have been forgiven then for being on the back foot after replacing Chris Hughton, who had led Newcastle to promotion the previous season and had the team in 11th position.

 

When Newcastle flirted with a top-four finish in 2012, Pardew spoke to me about the tipping point, the philosophy of taking care of the little things that can make a difference to the big picture.

That has seemed impossible for much of 2014. The club has run away with itself and even in the wake of victory against Liverpool, courtesy of another strike from the young Spanish forward Ayoze Perez, that needed to be remembered. Three wins in a week seemed as implausible as much that has happened at St James’ Park in recent seasons.

At half-time at Tottenham there was renewed dissension among the rank and file, but much of it had dissipated in the afterglow of a deserved victory against a Liverpool side who now themselves must rediscover much of the verve and energy that made them such a force last season.

 

“Momentum is vital and if you looked at last Sunday morning before Newcastle played Tottenham there was probably still a funny feeling around the club, but the two wins will have given them that confidence,” said Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager. “For us, it has been a difficult start, not ideal. We can only continue to work well. If you work hard it gives you extra confidence, and ultimately confidence will then bring you success.”

Rodgers hopes to succeed in fighting off interest from Manchester City in his captain, Steven Gerrard. “It certainly isn’t sentimental,” he said of his desire to open talks with the player. “He is still fresh [at 34].”

Pardew looked fresh on Saturday night as well. He has bought himself time.

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