ALAN Pardew hopes that brokering an uneasy truce with Joey Barton will finally turn the tide of Newcastle United’s summer of discontent.
For that to happen, though, he acknowledges that Mike Ashley needs to finally show his hand in the transfer market and bring in the two blue chip players that the team needs to enter the new season with confidence.
To put it mildly, the last month has been problematic.
Pardew didn’t quite go as far as to agree with one agitator that they were in “chaos” but he acknowledged that the club had problems – and many of its own making.
He has managed to apply a band aid to the Barton situation – practicality is in play, as no one of any significance has made the midfielder an offer – but other things depend on Ashley.
How central United’s controversial owner has been to this week’s events is unclear, but there’s no doubt that the club’s conservative approach to the summer window has been underscored by his demands for the club to become self-sufficient.
That in itself is not a policy that Newcastle’s supporters are completely against, but several sizeable miscalculations – as well as an unwillingness from power brokers to even discuss club matters – have turned the tide of public opinion against Ashley’s leadership once again.
The owner had earned some qualified praise for his handling of the situation in the wake of relegation, but since sacking Chris Hughton there have been a number of mis-steps.
Andy Carroll’s sale, Kevin Nolan’s departure, the double talk on the £35m – all could have been avoided with a more measured approach.
And this week’s emotional reaction to Barton’s outburst was not good leadership, even it was the tip of the iceberg as far as the midfielder’s indiscretions are concerned.
Pardew, again, was the only man prepared to account for the decisions of the past seven days. And, while some are openly questioning his authority, he deserves some credit for at least talking when others chose anonymous briefings with national newspapers to get their message across.
Asked whether the pre-season was in disarray, Pardew said: “I don’t think chaos is the right term that I would like to use at any football club and I’m certainly not going to agree to that.
“But are we having a difficult week? Yes.
“Are we having a situation where we need to get our fans in a better place? Yes.
“Does the team need to improve on the pitch? Yes.
“I think that’s where we are.”
Asked whether he was happy with the team spirit, Pardew admitted it was a problem. But he says it is nothing he’s not encountered before.
“I think we’ve been disrupted heavily by two or three things this pre-season. Perhaps they could have been avoided, I wouldn’t disagree with that,” he said.
“The issue I have is that I have to work with the group that I’ve got.
“The fitness of the players I’ve got is higher than we had last year – they’re at a better level.
“We’ve lost three players to impact injuries – Guthrie, Ferguson, Ben Arfa – which has disrupted us, we can’t get away from that. But it happens.
“And it’ll have happened at other clubs. As a manager you have to accept it and move on. We’ve had a tour of America which I thought was very very useful in terms of the games.
“They were tough. Some of those internal flights weren’t ideal, something we should have done better.
“The visa problem with Joey we kind of foresaw, with (Yohan) Cabaye we didn’t. That could have gone better for us, because we really wanted him over there.
“And then we’ve had this situation which really stems from past history and Joey not getting a new contract.
“No, it hasn’t been the most perfect pre-season – but I’ve had pre-seasons like this before, where it hasn’t gone right, we’ve lost games and there’s kind of been a bad feeling and then we’ve kicked off (the season) and it’s been okay and we’re off and running.” Twitter came in for criticism too. Revealing that he had spoken to Sir Alex Ferguson about the micro-blogging site, Pardew says he has taken a stand on players using it to get their personal agenda across.
What will not be accepted from now on is the outright dissent that appeared on Twitter in the wake of the Elland Road defeat.
Barton swiped the headlines with his criticisms but there have also been questionable posts by Wayne Routledge and Nile Ranger, who asked “what he had to do to get a game” in one message. To that extent every player was issued with a legal letter yesterday informing them not to Tweet on club matters. “Now the problem I have with this new medium of Twitter, people are Tweeting on there in an emotional state.
“And that’s not just footballers – sportsmen are an emotive people, that’s why they become pro sportsmen.
“They get in an emotional state and then you put something out instantly on Twitter, it’s very, very damaging.
“Not only to a football club but to any organisation and it could be to the police too which I’ve seen on occasion.
“I spoke to Sir Alex Ferguson this morning about this very subject and their policy (at Manchester United) is that nobody at their club can comment about the football club and I think that’s probably where we should be because it is in breach of contract if you are criticising the owner, the masseur, the player, anyone at the football club .
“You’re giving out injury news, that causes us a problem so we’ve notified the players this morning, they’ve probably seen it as another sort of dictatorial moment from us, but we’ve had to issue them legally with a letter to say this is not right, it’s a breach of contract and you have to understand you’re going to be fined and disciplined for that. That’s where we are with it at the moment.”