Pardew already out of time

The age-old metaphor of waiting for buses can certainly be applied to the last 14 days of the Geordie calendar. The travelling fans who mockingly danced the Poznan after Moussa Sissoko put their Capital One Cup tie beyond doubt at Man City, can be forgiven for relishing the moment. Just as in the league clash against Spurs three days earlier, their under-fire boss, the subject of multiple fan protests over the course of 2014, had seemingly got his tactics and substitutions bang on. Without question, Pardew deserves the credit for what have been two impressive away wins, and while it’s fantastic as a Newcastle fan to once again remember the taste of a significant victory, it’s important to maintain perspective. The truth is that these positive results are merely an anomaly in what has been an appalling calendar year for a manager who has long outstayed his welcome.

This week, a well-respected journalist in Patrick Barclay ludicrously claimed Newcastle fans owe their manager an apology for the protests that preceded the uninspiring 1-0 victory at home to Leicester, and the beginning of this recent purple patch. It seems many members of the press have been quick to question the Geordies’ contempt for the so called ‘Cockney Mafia’, extending this to insinuate anybody outside of the North East is given a rough time for the sake of it. Last time I checked, the birthplaces of Les Ferdinand and Robert Lee never hindered their respective cult statuses at the club, and last time I checked, Alan Pardew had a remarkably similar managerial record to the recently sacked Felix Magath and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It seems somewhat hypocritical that journalists like Barclay could suggest that fans have made reactionary judgements after a concerning start to the season (conveniently disregarding the downhill slide since Yohan Cabaye’s departure in January, and beyond) but that they should undeservedly and rather blindly hail Pardew as an untouchable tactical genius once more after a mere three wins. Slightly reactionary perhaps?

Keen followers of the Magpies will know that since Alan Pardew came under genuine pressure after the near-relegation season in 2012-13, his overarching strategy has been a fairly conservative one, and in recent months his fear of losing has ensured a counter-productive cautious approach, sticking to his tried and tested 4-2-3-1 while still insisting on playing square pegs in round holes. It’s also pertinent to point out that Newcastle enjoyed a positive run around the same time last season, however that brief success was short-lived.

Defensive winger Yoan Gouffran has been ineffectual since the turn of the year, failing to create or score anywhere near the return a left sided forward in that formation should be achieving in the Premier League. His constant inclusion has kept the likes of Sammy Ameobi and arguably Rolando Aarons from progressing their development in the first team – two players who have shown more in the last few weeks than Gouffran has all year. Not to mention the evident creative talent Remy Cabella possesses.

The former West Ham boss has also insisted on playing either Emmanuel Riviere or Ayoze Perez up front alone in Papiss Cisse’s absence, in an attempt to replicate the striking prowess Loic Remy offered last season. While Riviere possesses the strength to play up front alone, he doesn’t offer much mobility – while the young lightweight Spaniard Ayoze offers entirely the opposite. Both are isolated as a lone striker, yet Pardew’s stubbornness or lack of tactical diversity (take your pick) has failed to address this. Cisse does have the required attributes to play this role, however given his historic lack of confidence and injury record, it would be dangerous and naïve to build a team around him and simply become a one tactic pony – especially in such a punishing league as the English top flight.

While it is obvious to many that the now departed Frenchmen Cabaye and Remy were maybe papering over the cracks of flawed and rigid tactics, Pardew has showed no willingness to be bold in the face of diversity, and because of this, Newcastle’s results have suffered. After all, football is a results game and it’s difficult to imagine Pardew surviving at any of the other 19 Premier League outfits with his 2014 record. His man-management skills must also be brought into question too, given his complicity in allowing clear talents Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Hatem Ben Arfa to leave on loan from a squad which couldn’t afford any departures, let alone one who could help solve an attacking crisis and one who could provide genuine competition to a very leaky defence.

Granted, there may have been pressure applied to the manager from the owner to lighten the wage bill at the close of the summer transfer window, however it was Pardew’s inability to effectively coach these two players that put them on the fringes of the squad in the first place, like a teacher who had decided to give up on an unruly pupil and simply send them out the classroom – out of sight, rather than sitting down with them and addressing the root cause.

It’s very easy for players to come out after a victory and declare their backing to the manager, as they have done over the past two weeks, however their silence has been deafening for months now, suggesting that Pardew has long since lost his dressing room. This notion has maybe been escalated by the manager’s own disciplinary problems during a difficult two years including pushing a linesman, verbally abusing a fellow manager and of course the now infamous headbutt. Respect for him as an authority figure leading by example can only have dwindled since these incidents, while the fans’ respect for him has all but disappeared following countless post match interviews blaming everyone but himself for defeats, including the fans themselves.

Granted, working under Mike Ashley must be extremely testing, especially when the owner is making eyes at ‘another woman’ in the Scottish second tier, the manager and retail tycoon find themselves in a war of attrition; Pardew unwilling to walk to forfeit a payout, and Ashley unwilling to sack him and pay the compensation given the fact that his ambitions to float somewhere between the Europa League places and the relgation zone are currently being met.

While both are at the club, and we can safely say that Newcastle United is no longer Ashley’s number one footballing priority given developments in Glasgow, Newcastle fans are in a lose-lose situation. Getting rid of Pardew sooner rather than later won’t resolve all the problems the Geordie faithful face on a weekly basis, but it would certainly be a start. Looking at the long-term picture, Alan Pardew is not the man to take the club forward – his chance has come and gone and his time has finally run out, regardless of his latest heroics.

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