WHEN Newcastle United sacked Chris Hughton and said they wanted to replace him with a manager who had more experience, few supporters ever envisaged that man would be Alan Pardew.
Had Mike Ashley lured Martin O’Neill, the only outstanding out of work manager, to St James’ Park, had he gone for the vastly experienced Dutchman Martin Jol, the anger and dismay at Hughton’s departure would have remained, but it probably would not have lingered for long.
Like the Kings and Queens of England that clutter our history books, succession in football management is a case of the King is Dead. Long live the King. Not now.
Managers normally quit to take another job when they are popular, they are not generally sacked, yet this is what happened to Hughton.
Had Newcastle brought in a manager of proven stature, a big name with a CV bulging with European campaigns and trophies, they would have won the argument behind the need to replace Hughton fairly comfortable.
There were enough minor misgivings about the former boss to ensure that.
However, Pardew’s arrival will not easily convince people Hughton has been replaced by anyone better equipped to stave off the threat of relegation and improve the squad moving forward. Instead, there will be much head-scratching this morning at the decision to give him another job in the Premier League. In fact, judging by some of the reactions to his impending appointment last night, the reception to Newcastle’s new manager could be openly hostile.
Pardew will be running uphill, through treacle, into a force nine gale with the full weight of Hughton’s achievements and reputation on his back.
It is an unenviable task, yet it is one he must be allowed to try and succeed in. There is, and never will be, any point in pre-judging a manager before he has had a chance to prove himself.
We should not forget that few believed Hughton was up to the task at the start of last season. His record as caretaker was atrocious and virtually every single United fan on the planet was desperate to see Alan Shearer appointed.
Results, performances, transfer decisions and behaviour change perceptions, no matter how negative they are. If Pardew keeps Newcastle up and spends whatever money he gets from Ashley wisely, Hughton will quickly become little more than a fond memory. That is the harsh reality of football’s fickle affections.
The flip side of that, of course, is do badly and both he and the people who appointed him will be scolded in boiling hot water on Tyneside for their folly.
On the face of things, Pardew is a manager with just two years of top flight experience, 18 months with West Ham and six months with Charlton Athletic. Hardly the vastly experience, high-profile, proven track record boss most sought after Hughton’s sudden departure.
Hughton took control of Newcastle United 22 times in the Premier League, Alan Pardew’s has been in charge for 74 games in the top flight.
He is clearly more experienced, but not by the margin the statement that accompanied Hughton’s dismissal earlier this week suggested. The last time he took control of a side in the top flight he led Charlton Athletic into the Championship in 2007. He was given a season and a half to get them back and was sacked when he failed.
At West Ham, Pardew got the club into the Premier League, via the play-offs in 2005 and he steered the Hammers to a ninth-placed finish and the FA Cup Final, where they lost on penalties to Liverpool, in their first year back in the top tier.
Only after that did things turn sour, the club’s worst run of defeats in 70 years predictably leading to the chop four months into the following campaign.
In contrast, it took Hughton (below) just one season to lift the Magpies back into the Premier League, albeit with a better group of players, and they are currently 11th in the Premier League as Pardew gets set to replace him in the manager’s chair.
Nevertheless, although Pardew is not the manager anyone expected, or in the majority of cases wanted – he received just 2% of the votes in a poll carried out by our sister publication the Evening Chronicle – he does have a decent pedigree.
He did an excellent job at Reading, albeit in the lower leagues and his early years at West Ham were a success.
And, while he may have been sacked by League One’s Southampton back in August, he did a good job on the South Coast, overhauling a 10 point penalty for going into administration the previous season to take them to within a whisker of the play-offs.
He also won the Johnstone Paint’s Trophy last term and his dismissal is believed to have been down to personal problems with the chairman rather than results.
They are commendable achievements and Pardew is not a managerial mug, he has does have more years behind him as a manager, but neither has he done enough in the game to deny his appointment at St James’ Park is a massive risk for Ashley and managing director Derek Llambias.
Crucially, he appears to have been given the job, not only because of his reputation, or the fact he has been waiting for a job opportunity since leaving Southampton, but because he knows Ashley and Llambias on a personal level. That is how the Ashley regime likes to do its business and it is they like to run Newcastle United Football Club.
At least Pardew will know what to expect from his new bosses, because the rest of us are struggling to make sense out of much that has happened at St James’ Park this week.