Alan Pardew never made millions from his years as a professional footballer.
He played in the wrong era for the wrong clubs to make any serious money, and back then hard-working defensive midfielders weren’t on giant contracts.
Not that he complained then, or indeed now, given the fact Crystal Palace gave him his first senior contract at 26 years old when he perhaps thought it wasn’t going to happen for him.
Up until then he played semi-professional and was a full-time glazier. Or to put it another way, he lived in the real world.
Today, Pardew returns to Selhurst Park for the first time as a Premier League manager when Newcastle United battle London’s Christmas shoppers to get to the south east of the capital.
Not much has really changed since he left there in 1991.
The stadium is almost exactly the same, give or take a few improvements, as are the dressing rooms.
The big difference is that the Palace players in the home dressing room today are all filthy rich. Many of them will be millionaires. And as for the Newcastle United squad...
Well, let’s just say none will be too worried about how they are going to pay for presents.
Pardew has known hardship in football. Today’s Premier League footballers probably think it’s a kind of sports car. The BMW Hardship. Everyone who is anyone is driving them.
And yet the Newcastle manager believes that some things have stayed the same and that is footballers, even those with bank balances the size of Belgium, only think about winning.
We have to hope he is right. There is enough evidence to suggest not all buy into this philosophy.
Pardew said: “Footballers are winners and the money doesn’t have too much impact, really, once you are in the dressing room.
“It’s actually getting to the dressing, from Monday to Friday, that their lives are different, great big houses and great big cars and God knows what else.
“But actually when you go into the dressing room, it’s still a competitive nature and players who want to win. and money doesn’t – or shouldn’t – come into it.”
Pardew joined Palace from Yeovil in March 1987 and went on to make 160 appearances for the club, including an FA Cup final against Manchester United, which they lost in a replay.
During four and a half years with Palace, for his manager Steve Coppell, he played alongside the likes of Nigel Martyn, Geoff Thomas, John Salako, Ian Wright and Mark Bright.
They were some team.
Crystal Palace even finished third one season in the old First Division. That just wouldn’t happen now. Nothing came easy for Pardew, everything was a bit of a battle and he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Pardew said: “I wouldn’t swap the way my career evolved, if I am honest.
“I gained great experience in that non-league of how to win games and the grind of non-league football, working and then really coming to the professional world and thinking, ‘Well, this is an easy life’.
“But it isn’t that easy after a while. It took me a while to break in, but when I broke in, I was lucky to have two great strikers in the team and we had a great run.
“We reached the FA Cup final and finished third in the league the last year I was there. It was a phenomenal team that Steve put together there.”
Palace, for all their recent okay form and improvement in results, will more than likely go straight back down to the Championship at the end this season.
Their manager, Tony Pulis, will get this group of players scrapping for every point, but the sad fact is that Crystal Palace are probably too small a club for the modern Premier League.
Pardew said: “It’s difficult for a team to repeat Palace coming up and doing well as we did in the early 1990s. I think that’s fair to say.
“The gap in finance between Manchester United and Crystal Palace back then was so much smaller. I’m not saying that we could compete with them on an even footing even then, but certainly the teams were closer than they are now.
“These top clubs have that depth of squad, the finance they have available and the money they get from the Champions League, it’s going up and up and up and it’s a little bit of a worry that the fantasy can’t come true any more.
“I think we finished third one year, and that was a hell of an achievement for what you might consider a yo-yo team.
“It’s just a love for me (Palace). I love going there. There are still people that I remember there, even if they’re getting a little bit older than I would like.
“I like what they’re doing, they’ve got good directors and it looks like they’ve got a good plan.
“I’m pleased they took Tony and it looks like it’s been a really good move for them and so far he’s proved that correct.
“He knows the game does Tony and I like him.
“It’s never easy to play against him, but I always enjoy his teams and his company. I’ve never been there with a Premier League team, so it’ll be nice to go back. I’ll give the crowd a little wave and I’ll enjoy that because it’s nice to go back as an old boy with a good team and a Premier League team, too.
“Palace is a great club and a really good team at the minute, so that’s good.”