Pardew's unlikely lads flying high but he can't win over fans

Newcastle supporters say he is an Ashley puppet and won't sing his name, even though they are fourth...

There may well come a time when we will be wondering whatever happened to Alan Pardew's unlikely lads.

Indeed, while the new-look Newcastle continue to occupy the dizzy height of fourth place in the Premier League table, the default mood setting among many followers of the black and whites remains stuck somewhere in the vicinity of the downcast Bob Ferris in the film version of The Likely Lads. "In the chocolate box of life the top layer's already gone – and someone's pinched the orange cream from the bottom," he memorably pondered.

Still, for all of the Toon Army's deep resentment of Mike Ashley's presence at the top layer of their beloved club, of the pinching of Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton by opposition clubs, of the lack of re-investment in high-profile replacements, the Magpies are flying high and a feel-good factor is threatening to impinge on the negativity. Pardew's side travel to Wolves today on an unbeaten run of eight matches in all competitions this season – six in the league, two in the Carling Cup.

Newcastle have not been undefeated for so long at the start of a campaign since 1994-95. Not that Pardew has been giving himself and his players a pat on the back. "If you do that, you end up with egg on your face," the Newcastle manager said. "I've spoken to a few of the guys about making sure that we say the right things. It's very important that we just keep working hard.

"Our midfield stats have come through and we're the hardest-working group in the division. All those things add up and it's important we remember that it's hard work that's got us where we are."

It is to Pardew's credit that he has lost the guts of the side that took Newcastle to 12th last season – Barton, Nolan, Carroll, Jose Enrique – and yet retained the spirit and the substance that the St James' class of 2010-11 had about them.

In midfield, the French pair Gabriel Obertan and Yohan Cabaye have replaced the Scouse duo Barton and Nolan. Up front, the Paris-born Senegal international Demba Ba – scorer of all three goals in the 3-1 home win against Blackburn last Saturday – has assumed line-leading duties from the Geordie Carroll, who joined Liverpool for £35m more than the free-transfer acquisition from West Ham cost.

Factor in a defence that has conceded the fewest number of goals of all 92 League clubs (three to date) and you might think they would be singing Pardew's praises from the rooftops on Tyneside. You would be wrong. Ten months on from his appointment in place of the popular Chris Hughton, Pardew has yet to hear his name chanted by the Toon Army. He is still seen as Ashley's puppet, as the cover of the latest edition of one fanzine portrays him.

That might change if the man who guided West Ham to the 2006 FA Cup final keeps pulling the strings on the pitch all the way to Wembley. If his in-form side win their fourth-round Carling Cup tie at Blackburn on 26 October they will be through to the quarter-finals.

On the league front, though, Pardew is looking no further than today's trip to Wolverhampton, where the Magpies last won a top-flight fixture back in September 1958. Asked to evaluate his unlikely lads, he replied: "I honestly can't tell you how good we are. The signs that I'm getting suggest that we are a good side but I think we're a little more vulnerable. Last season we were a functional team. We could get goals at set-plays. We could eke out a result. This team isn't like that. This team is more about rhythm. And there's more things that can go wrong. Two or three lose confidence and it might not look the same. We've got all those battles to come. When we go down to 10 men, can we nick a result? When things really go against us, how are we going to react?"

No pats on the back just yet then for the Geordie untouchables – who were in fact shot down in midweek, in a paintballing contest. "The staff took the attack to the players," Pardew said. "We won on points."

Life and times

Pardew as a player

*Learnt his trade in non-League football in Surrey and south London, and almost quit the game when he decided to take a job as a glazer for six months in the Middle East.

*Went on to make 475 appearances with 38 goals during spells at Barnet, Charlton and Crystal Palace.

*Personal highlight was scoring the winner for Palace in a memorable 4-3 win over Liverpool in the 1990 FA Cup semi-final.

Pardew as a manager

*Highlights include gaining promotions with Reading and West Ham and taking the Hammers to the FA Cup final in 2006. Also won the Football League Trophy with Southampton in 2010.

*Overall record: 560 games – won 242, drawn 145, lost 173; win ratio 43.21%

sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor