By Ian Carroll
What follows could easily be a(nother) rant from a Newcastle United fan about Mike Ashley, Sports Direct, lack of money spent, good players sold and not replaced, Wonga etc etc. However, the biggest problem at Newcastle United, by far, is Alan Pardew. The man is a complete joke of a football manager, who somehow is still employed on a contract with more than six years left to run.
On the face of it, finishing tenth in the season just gone might not seem too bad, given that the season before was a struggle to stay in the Premier League. However, it’s important to note that Mr Pardew was also manager then as well. Yes, I know he was manager the season before that, when NUFC finished fifth (and he was named Manager of the Year, yes, I know) but that was two years ago, and all of the good work he did in getting us to fifth had unravelled within sixth months. Anyone who has regularly watched what has happened on the pitch in those two years would recognise that there’s a lot gone wrong.
Yes, there hasn’t been a permanent signing since January 2013, but there were five then. One of them was the Montpellier Captain, one of the most highly rated young central defenders in Europe. Now, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa can’t get into the team ahead of Steven Taylor (an idiot of professional levels) and Mike Williamson (who had a decent season, but is barely a footballer of professional levels). The most recent player brought into the club, one Luuk de Jong, is quite simply one of the worst players I’ve ever had to watch play football. Pardew rated him. There are a long list of players who’ve gone backwards under Pardew (look up the phrase Pardewed).
The football witnessed at St James’ Park in the last two seasons has been, at best, functional, and at worst, turgid. The times Yohan Cabaye played well (or played at all) and wasn’t in the huff, Newcastle United played well. Yohan Cabaye left the club in January. Without him, the team fell apart, with a manager who had no idea how to fill the gaping hole left by his departure.
Some suggested that this might have been an ideal chance to try to find a way of working Hatem Ben Arfa back into the side. Instead Pardew apparently decided that they would adopt a more ‘back to basics’ approach. This seemed to involve hoofing the ball aimlessly at either the aforementioned Luuk de Jong, Shola Ameobi or Papiss Cisse (Papiss at least had the advantage that he’d got used to this the previous season, and pretty much all confidence, belief and joy had been sucked out of him by that man AP).
Hatem Ben Arfa is a footballer not without his faults. He tends to over elaborate, to shoot when he should pass, to dribble when he should pass, well, to dribble and shoot much of the time really, but he’s got more ability to do something out of the ordinary, something creative, than anyone else Pardew has managed in his three and a half years at Newcastle by a country mile. He’s fallen out with Pardew this year (in particular) because he doesn’t track back enough. Because that is what this team has missed, what all Pardew’s teams always have missed, is the lack of people that can run around a lot…Hatem needn’t feel like he’s being singled out, of course. Alan Pardew wouldn’t pick Carlos Tevez or Javier Mascherano when he managed West Ham.
Pardew will, of course, still be in charge at the start of next season. This much was confirmed by the fact that he kept his job after head butting David Meyler. The club have subsequently confirmed as much at a Fans Forum meeting. It appears that there might be actual money to spend, which is worrying, as I wouldn’t trust Alan Pardew to be able to either identify or sign a decent footballer, or get the best out of any that we do somehow manage to sign. Some people will argue that anyone that wants rid of Pardew ought to be ‘careful what you wish for’, as he might be replaced by someone worse (apparently there are worse managers about, though I don’t think I buy this).
No credible manager would work for Mike Ashley, the argument goes. Really? I imagine there would be a long list of decent managers that would be prepared to earn very good money (although probably not on the eight year contract that Pardew was given) to manage in the Premier League and to work with a number of talented footballers. Instead, we’re going to be stuck with a man with a proven track record of getting worse and worse the longer he is in a job (ask West Ham fans, ask Charlton fans) playing awful, negative, joyless football in a negative, joyless football ground.
There have been a raft of terrible managers at NUFC in the last twenty five or so years that I’ve been watching them, but I’ve never witnessed the kind of abuse and vitriol aimed at Pardew (and Ashley) during the final home game of last season. It was magical to behold. A continuation of this is just about the only thing I can think of to look forward to next season…