CONSIDERING he has neither played for nor managed them, Liverpool have featured prominently in Alan Pardew’s career.
The Reds were the opposition for the high and low point of his time as a Crystal Palace midfielder, both in the same season.
Liverpool’s 9-0 win in September 1989 must have made Pardew’s winning extra-time goal over them in the FA Cup semi-final all the sweeter.
Liverpool have also been responsible for both the biggest victory and darkest day of his time as Newcastle United manager.
Now, as he rides the crest of a wave of over-achievement, it is hard to conceive just how unpopular an appointment Pardew was 16 months ago.
When Chris Hughton was shown the door in December 2010, just 2% of Newcastle Evening Chronicle readers voted him their preferred replacement. Seen as a casino crony of the St James’ Park “Cockney Mafia”, Pardew’s appointment was taken as an affront by some who wanted a more high-profile, more successful candidate to improve on the manager who months earlier led Newcastle out of the Championship at the first attempt.
To say he needed to hit the ground running was an understatement. On paper, Liverpool at home was a difficult start for a team without a win in five games. Scratch a little deeper, though, and the Reds were in a mess, Roy Hodgson’s brief spell as manager in its dying days. Inspired by Andy Carroll (remember him?), who was himself nearing the end of that chapter of his career, Newcastle won 3-1.
“You can’t say how it would be different if we had lost,” Pardew says looking back. “It was a massive win, not just for me but for Mike (Ashley, the owner) and Derek (Llambias, managing director).
“It was their decision to bring me here, so it was a big game for them, too. So everything that has gone on from that, you can’t underestimate just how important it was.”
Less than two months later, Pardew was cursing Liverpool.
In January, they made Newcastle and Carroll (pictured left) an offer they could not refuse. Having denied it would happen until he was blue in the face, Pardew reluctantly sanctioned his star striker’s £35m departure.
“I had to drive out the gate (of the training ground) with fans bombarding me with questions about why we were selling Andy Carroll,” recalls Pardew.
“We were vulnerable because at the time we weren’t safe in the Premier League and we had to fight tooth and nail to get ourselves out of it.
“Peter Løvenkrands and Shola (Ameobi) helped us through. But in the summer we got the chance to spend that money – and we spent it wisely.”
With the benefit of hindsight, it worked out for the best, Pardew reinvigorating a team again looking down on Liverpool in the Premier League. But he freely admits the morning after the transfer deadline before was his toughest at Newcastle.
“It was because we genuinely thought he wouldn’t be sold,” he reasons. “I’m not just talking about myself but Derek and Mike. We looked at each other a week before and said no one was going to pay over the odds for him in the window. The (Fernando) Torres sale made all that go out of the window.
“I had said he wouldn’t be sold, etc, etc and it just fuelled the agenda that perhaps we were a selling club and had no desire to do anything. But I think we have proven that wrong. There was a gameplan.”
Bringing in Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and later Papiss Cissé, and promoting young goalkeeper Tim Krul, has worked to a tee. It is why Newcastle are now looking to qualify for Europe. The performances of other teams – most notably Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final – will impact on their chances, but Pardew is worried only about controlling the controllable.
A Cup win for Liverpool in the latest Merseyside derby would ensure Newcastle’s current sixth position brings Europa League football.
Victory for Everton, and they will need to finish fifth.
“We’re not secure of sixth, so we aren’t thinking of that and I won’t be worrying about their (Liverpool’s) form either,” Pardew insists. “Look at their run-in (Aston Villa, Blackburn, West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City, Fulham, Chelsea and Swansea City to come) – they have a great chance to overhaul us.
“What they will be looking for on Sunday is a confidence lift – a draw isn’t a good result for them. They need to win.
“We have to try to get the three or four wins I think we will need to guide us home. If we can get four or five we could finish fifth.”
The wealth and recent histories of Liverpool and Chelsea, the sides sandwiching them, bring high expectations.
“The last six games is where we could kick in because the pressure is going to fall on Chelsea and Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal more so than us,” Pardew acknowledges. “People keep looking at us, saying what a surprise but we have been in there all year. If we can get there in the last six games who knows?”