Newcastle United: Stability or standing still?

pardew creative commons

Image available under Creative Commons (c) danae47 via flickr

It was almost an accident waiting to happen. After Alan Pardew had guided Newcastle to an impressive 5th place finish in the Premier League and won two Manager of the Year awards, controversial owner Mike Ashley handed him an unprecedented 8 year deal.

Many eyebrows were raised, particularly given the cut-throat nature of modern footballing culture. It was rare but exceedingly refreshing to see such a public declaration of faith in not only a Premier League manager, but a British one. A move surely designed to help galvanise both playing and backroom staff at St James’ Park, with the underlying message for the forthcoming 2012/13 campaign from Ashley being: ‘second verse, same as the first’.

Indeed a fine 2-1 dismissal of a dangerous Spurs outfit on the opening day of the season must’ve had many a fan rubbing their hands together at the potential that awaited them.

Yet nine months on, the under fire Newcastle manager has just been given the vote of confidence from his chairman after a disastrous season that almost saw his team relegated after a series of capitulations and sub-par performances. The 8 year contract appeared to have such a divisive affect on Pardew and his players, seemingly creating instability. Does stability inherently bring success?

Most teams can only dream of replicating the continued success of Sir Alex Ferguson at Man Utd, but it is a model revered across the footballing world. It seems perfectly fitting that David Moyes was handed the reigns after a stable 11-year stay at Goodison Park; the loyalty shown and his resourceful approach to management making him number one target ahead of the likes of Jose Mourinho.

However other teams look for stability in their overall footballing philosophy rather than management. Barcelona’s now famous tiki-taka tactics has brought unbridled success – a philosophy akin to the legendary dutch ‘Total Football’ of the 1970’s. Frank Rijkaard laid the foundations and Pep Guardiola progressed the system, reaping the rewards by overseeing one of the most decorated and devastating teams in history.

Chelsea have probably shown the least faith in managers since the genesis of the Premier League, yet have returned no less than 13 trophies in the last decade, an exceptional return albeit perhaps to be expected given the hundreds of millions of pounds invested by owner Roman Abramovich.

This could represent a major case study in stability being irrelevant in the pursuit of success, if it weren’t for the fact that the backbone of Cech, Terry, Lampard and, until recently, Drogba, have been so instrumental in that success, offering consistently high performances game after game, season after season.

So what do Newcastle have in the ‘stability stakes’ and what can fans realistically look forward to, knowing Pardew will be in charge for the foreseeable future? For a start, they have a manager backed by his owner thus avoiding a summer of starting from square one with a new manager.

They also have an enviable business model, often likened to the ‘Moneyball’ approach of buying younger players with potential from foreign markets, cheaply. Graham Carr, Newcastle’s chief scout, has become a household name as a result of shrewd buys over the last few seasons and the club has also turned a profit for two seasons running, a huge achievement in the debt-ridden world of the Premier League.

With a couple of additions, Newcastle will have a solid squad more than capable of pushing on next season and learning from the mistakes of the previous campaign. The potential to revisit the form of Pardew’s first full season at St James’ Park is certainly there.

But stability shouldn’t be mistaken for simply standing still, something Pardew and indeed Mike Ashley need to address this summer in both strategy on the pitch and recruitment off it. Pardew desperately needs to rediscover his mojo and prove he has the credentials to evolve. Both will also need to show flexibility, but also the ability to swallow pride in order to steady the Geordie ship and restore faith in the regime.

Expect an interesting summer in the North East.


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