Alan Pardew was celebrating a flying start to his life with the Magpies last night but the player who performed the pivotal part in Newcastle United's 3-1 home victory against Liverpool dedicated his man-of-the-match champagne not to the new man in the hot seat at St James' Park but to the manager who was deemed surplus to requirements by the Tyneside club last Monday. Joey Barton, the scorer of Newcastle's second goal and the chief driving force in their first victory in six matches, said his award was a tribute to Chris Hughton.
"We were all disappointed to lose Chris," Barton said. "He was a great man and everyone has said how dignified he was and how much of a gentleman he was. He's one of the nice guys of football and it's a shame. It's a cruel game. The king is dead; long live the king."
Pardew, who endured a tepid welcome from the Newcastle fans, who are unhappy at Hughton's dismissal, said he could understand Barton's dedication. "We talked about it after the game," he added. "I've worked with Chris and he can feel very unfortunate that he's not sitting here now. But we all know this game can be cruel. I had a very similar issue at Southampton. I was conscious of the fact that when I left Southampton they lost three games. It was important that, whoever was the manager today, the players represented themselves and the club in the right manner, and they did that and more.
"I met the senior players on Friday and the reaction I got from them was good. You need that group to be with you and they welcomed me and made it easy for me."
There were protests aimed at club owner Mike Ashley before and after the game and chants against him during the match. Pardew, however, thanked the supporters for getting behind the team he has inherited from Hughton. "They reacted with disappointment about the events of this week, to losing Chris, which is understandable," he said. "He's a gentleman and he did a lot of good work here. But ultimately they support not me or any individual player; they support the shirt and the club and they showed that today. The noise level was something I've only experienced in cup finals. Getting my message across was difficult. I might have to get some sign language going."