Alan Pardew confessed he had been "moved" by the support accorded him by West Ham supporters yesterday, to the extent he was on the brink of watching the opening moments of the game against Blackburn Rovers through teary eyes.
Barely a minute into the game the Bobby Moore Stand had launched into a stirring rendition of "There's only one Alan Pardew". The object of their affection admitted: "I'm not usually emotional, most of us managers are pretty hardened, but I was a little choked at the way they backed me. That was a nice moment and I thank them for that. Before the game I had many [supportive] messages from West Ham fans," Pardew added. "I had been into town and the fans had been great. I thought, 'I hope it works like that Sunday,' but you never know."
Such doubts were multiplied by the calculated risk he had taken in selecting Teddy Sheringham, who scored West Ham's first goal.
"I did feel I might be opening myself up for a bit of criticism; a 40-year-old coming to save the day. But I thought Teddy could influence the game. He was the catalyst for a lot of good things in the first half.
"Teddy has leadership qualities which are important to the team. It's always nice to have a senior player you can look to to lean on, and they do as they are a young team."
Not that Sheringham, for all his experience, was immune to the tension. "It was the nerviest match I've ever been involved in," he said. "I'm still shaking. If Blackburn had scored first it would have been very difficult. But we got the first. It gave us a platform and something to keep hold of when we were defending."
Pardew, dressed all in black, spent the entire game in the technical area, pacing the turf nervously like an expectant father in the maternity ward waiting room.
Occasionally he would cajole his players, or berate an official, but he was largely restrained. There was no jig down the touchline when the Hammers scored, as at Manchester City in the FA Cup last year, just a trademark swinging punch of the air.
Hayden Mullins put West Ham 2-0 ahead with 10 minutes to go but then Rovers pulled a goal back through David Bentley and Pardew's demeanour became that of the expectant father who has just seen the crash caesarean section team rush into action. Helpless and worried, he looked on as Bentley attempted a last-minute headed equaliser.
He said: "After the second I thought, 'We're home and dry' but in the West Ham way we let them have a goal and it became edgy at the end. That looping header seemed to take a long time to come down to the top of the net."
Pardew, who pleaded for a quick resolution of the unsettling takeover saga at the club, had criticised several of his players recently but he warmly praised them this time.
"I thought the players were very brave," he said. "What I do is the easy part. The hard part is going out and performing like we did under the pressure we were under. This is not a place to hide and no one did.
"We still have a lot of battling to do," he added, as victory took West Ham out of the relegation zone and up into 16th place in the table . "One victory does not propel us into a team sitting comfortably in mid-table, but it does get us out of the bottom three. The pressure mounts when you are there and now we are out maybe we can show the quality and exuberance of last year."
To judge from Sheringham's parting shot that exuberance is already coming back. He said: "We have a massive game next week, Arsenal at home. They are a great side, but bring them on."Reuse content