Alan Pardew won't be experiencing too many home comforts on Tyneside this evening but the coincidence of Liverpool being the side who fetch up on his new doorstep can offer some reassurance at least.
They represent not only the high-tide mark of his own managerial career – it was after West Ham's extraordinary defeat in the "Gerrard" FA Cup final of 2006 that it began to unravel – but also provide, in the form of Roy Hodgson, an example of how unforgiving football can be to the perceived "small club" manager like himself.
If Pardew feels he has a storm to walk through, then he should speak to Hodgson about how best to equip himself for the journey. The Liverpool manager finds himself in the lofty surrounds of eighth spot in the Premier League and fielded questions yesterday about the likelihood of his new owners sanctioning January spending if a top-four place starts looking likely. Yet Hodgson knows that to many Liverpool fans he remains a manager capable of running a football club but not a footballing institution like Liverpool.
If we put aside the objection that Hodgson has twice managed Internazionale in a 34-year managerial career and conclude that he, like Pardew, is a "small club" manager stepping up, then a new book by the author and journalist Paul Tomkins reveals the statistical evidence weighing against both men. Pay as you Play, Tomkins' statistical analysis of managers' performance, charts how Sam Allardyce, Joe Kinnear and Graeme Souness all had at least one season of punching above their weight at less fashionable clubs, only to fail in an expensive way when handed a bigger job. Mark Hughes and Alan Curbishley fall into the same category; so, in an early Premier League era, do Mike Walker – whose success at Norwich was followed by failure at Everton – and Gerry Francis, who couldn't replicate at Tottenham what he managed at QPR. Harry Redknapp is arguably the only exception.
Tomkins cites bad owners, restless supporters and a level of expectation which mean that the aspiration to merely avoid defeat proves insufficient when style is a necessary accoutrement each week. He also cites Dennis Tueart. "You can be a very good manager of a corner shop but that doesn't mean you can run a multinational," the former City player once said. "It's a very different skill-set."
Hodgson yesterday provided a revealing insight into the experience of arriving at Anfield to find his former managing director Christian Purslow – the man who played a major role in hiring him – telling him which of his inherited players he ought to get rid of. "Christian Purslow was here for two years and is a big fan with strong opinions about players," Hodgson said. "He gave me lots on this one, this one, this one, he fed me the information. I listened, of course, but made it clear I wasn't going to act on it, though to be fair when we've spoken or texted he's be the first to recognise what a good job we didn't do these things – because the boys have turned out well."
Hodgson didn't name names but the five believed to be on Purslow's list include three of those who have done most to prove the doubters wrong recently: Lucas, Maxi Rodriguez and leading scorer David Ngog. A fourth, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, is stand-by captain in Steven Gerrard's absence while Ryan Babel made a case of his own by scoring Liverpool's second against Aston Villa last Monday night.
There has certainly been a mass clear-out in Rafael Benitez's wake: that explains the £9m outlay on agents' fees alone in the past year, second only to Chelsea, but Hodgson's plea that the club stop, think and avoid the blind rush into squad overhaul, which he has narrowly avoided, talked directly to Newcastle's recent history.
"There are lots of examples in the past of teams, in their ambition to stay in the league or get into the top four, the club has virtually been destroyed by people making such bad decisions," Hodgson said. "It's not because owners have not supported them, but because the people coming in have been wrong. I'm always frightened you will get rid of those who will be good for the club now and in the future on the basis of a name out there being a bit 'higher'.
"But then they come in and after you've worked with them for a couple of months, although they sounded a good idea, they turn out to be not any better – or maybe even worse –than what you've got rid of."
This process has bedevilled Newcastle in a managerial merry-go-round lacking any continuity. After Kenny Dalglish sought to shore up the defence, Ruud Gullit went for "sexy football".
Then came Bobby Robson, a more diametrically different successor to Gullit than any could find, then Souness (tough), Roeder (nicer) and Allardyce (tough), Keegan (sentimental), Kinnear (bizarre). Tomkins calls this lurching "the Newcastle effect". It can be no coincidence that Newcastle have paraded some of the most expensive squads per point in Premier League history.
Hodgson can at least reflect that he finally has sensible owners. While Keegan claimed yesterday that Pardew will never succeed for as long as Mike Ashley, who certainly won't be spending in a hurry, is at St James' Park, New England Sports Ventures do seem prepared to be circumspect before making more changes.
Director of strategy Damien Comolli is conscious of buying players who would send young prospects like Jonjo Shelvey or Martin Kelly back to the reserves. Liverpool, who have won two out of 17 away games, are at least a side Hodgson now recognises as his own. "In the beginning a lot of what was going on the field was not easy for me to identify with and not really what we were looking for," Hodgson said. "But these days, if people are still not liking what they are seeing then at least I have to hold my hands up and say 'this is what we work at all the time'."
Hardly a man in his comfort zone – but closer to one than Pardew will be for some time to come.
Price Is Wrong: Newcastle's 1998 side most expensive per point
'Pay as you Play' examines how the 49 managers who have completed more than two full seasons in the Premier League have performed in relation to their budget. The analysis is based on a transfer price index which evaluates a manager's spending in terms of 2010 prices. This enables the authors to extrapolate a total value of a squad for a season.
Newcastle appear four times in the table of most expensive squads per point (appearing first, eighth, 14th and 15th). Roy Hodgson's Blackburn side of 1998-99 are second.
Most expensive squads per point:
1. Newcastle United (Kenny Dalglish) 1997-98.
Total value of squad: £259,498,185. Points: 44
Cost per point: £5,897,686
2. Blackburn (Roy Hodgson/Brian Kidd) 1998-99.
Total value: £185,216,234. Points: 35
Cost per point: £5,291,892
3. Chelsea (Jose Mourinho) 2006-07.
Total value: £438,985,943. Points: 83 Cost per point: £5,288,987
'Pay as you Play' by Paul Tomkins, Graeme Riley and Gary Fulcher (GPRF Publishing, £10.99)Reuse content