SO Alan Pardew and his small band of trusted lieutenants are in it for the long haul. Now the pressing question is, are you?
There seemed to be broad support from Newcastle United fans at their club embracing stability by handing Pardew, John Carver, Steve Stone and Andy Woodman eight-year contracts yesterday – certainly more enthusiasm than there had been for the manager’s League Cup team selection 24 hours previously.
But they are one and the same thing: equal parts of a long-term vision that Newcastle United hope will deliver them the ultimate goal of a top four club that is self-sustainable.
It is a huge ask, not least because it asks Magpies supporters to think long-term in a sport that is notoriously knee jerk. We all love the idea of stability and viewing the bigger picture, but it is quite difficult to restrain yourself from calling for a change when you’re paying hard-earned cash to watch your team under-perform miserably. That holds true from AFC Wimbledon to Arsenal, but the defiant message projected by yesterday’s news is that Newcastle will do things differently. There will be break clauses but effectively these contracts are United writing off the prospect of a managerial change in all but the most extreme of circumstances. They are so convinced that they have the right men at the top that they’re prepared to ride the inevitable vicissitudes over the next few years – and for that they are to be applauded.
The contracts are deserved. Pardew and his team have delivered success and unlike a few of his predecessors, the manager ‘gets’ the club and supporters he works for.
The presence of two locally-born long-term supporters of the club on its coaching staff is key, and Carver’s role in the success should no be underplayed. He helps Pardew deliver the right message – which he does consistently – but the most important thing is results, which have been excellent since December 2010.
Still, the length of the deal is rare indeed in the world of football, which tends to deal in much shorter cycles. Mike Ashley operates differently. He rewards success and is a loyal friend to staff who work hard for his businesses, as evidenced by the £44,000 bonus that was paid out to Sports Direct employees after the company hit its profit targets. Yesterday’s announcement was simply extending that policy to the football club he owns.
It was an investment in Pardew, but also a sign that Ashley believes the blueprint he has constructed works. That means more of the same over the next eight years: more diligent scouting, more haggling for the best price and possibly more frustration in the transfer market.
Those hoping for a sudden return to big buys and major investment in the transfer market will be bitterly disappointed.
This is a long-term plan that believes that building strong foundations and encouraging young players to develop is the only way to level a playing field that has been distorted beyond recognition by Russian oligarchs and Emirati royals.
No one has managed to sustain a top-four place without eye-watering sums being spent in the transfer market, but then not many have handed out eight-year deals to their manager either.
Newcastle are pushing the envelope here, but yesterday’s announcement shows that Pardew and his backroom staff believe in the project. If supporters can buy into the vision too, it could be a marriage made in heaven.