EVER since arriving as manager of Newcastle United 13 months ago, Alan Pardew has had to do other people’s talking for them.
The Magpies manager has worked against a backdrop of suspicion – initially at his own credentials, and always at the motivation of those above.
Not until the transfer window closes with his squad intact will he be able to claim vindication, but with January’s biggest transfer deal to date done and dusted, he can sit more comfortably.
Twelve months late, Newcastle fans have finally been presented with the No.9 they were promised, in £7.5m Papiss Demba Cissé.
A centre-back is still needed for this window to be a complete success, but at least it seems unlikely to turn into the car crash of last year.
The mental scars of last January remain. It is why Pardew dares not say “never”, and why everyone else is reserving judgement.
Sixth in the table with the opportunity to go fifth by beating Fulham tomorrow, things are going well. A little too well, perhaps.
In the black-and-white world of Newcastle, the next crisis is rarely far away. Half a season of tranquillity has heightened rather than calmed some nerves.
The performances of Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Cheick Tioté, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba have brought unwelcome attention. The fear is that owner Mike Ashley is too much of a businessman to turn down an offer as generous as the ones which took Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan to pastures new in the last two windows. Supporters have 11 shopping days to keep their fingers crossed.
“It is really a case of being on our guard,” admits Pardew, desperate to avoid promises his boss cannot keep. “We are still vulnerable to the Champions League clubs. We still financially need to balance the books. Therefore, even in this window, I am on guard about that.”
When Newcastle got cold feet about Modibo Maïga after the Sochaux striker’s medical, it seemed a convenient way to let the fans down yet again.
“To try to get a striker late in the day now, after Maïga has fallen down, would just be slightly reckless,” Pardew said at the time. This piece of disinformation was much more to the fans’ liking.
Given that, and numerous other failures to fill the hole left by Carroll’s £35m sale to Liverpool, there was trepidation even when news leaked that Cissé was on Tyneside to talk turkey. Fortunately, it was a deal wrapped up in double-quick time. “Mike, Derek (Llambias, managing director) and Lee (Charnley, club secretary) did a super job to get it over the line,” says Pardew.
“I was never in doubt really. When I come in here I get doubt from you guys (in the media) who represent the fans, so I know there have been doubts. I can’t keep saying I think it is going to happen. They have answered that one for me.”
The media-shy hierarchy owed him that after too often leaving Pardew alone to face the flak, cast in the role of apologist.
Soon, though, he is back in default mode, buoyed by Newcastle’s most expensive signing since the heady early days of Kevin Keegan’s second (managerial) coming.
“He (Ashley) has made a significant contribution to the success we have already gained here,” Pardew points out. “He perhaps didn’t need to. He could have turned around and said, ‘You are doing great. On you go. Carry on.’ That speaks for itself.
“He has had a lot of criticism while in charge of this football club. If you put yourself in his position, some of the signings for this club, some of the faith he has put in people has not been repaid.
“That would make you wary as well. He has had to bear the criticism for most of that.
“In terms of stuff off the pitch and trying to generate new income, it is like all clubs are doing.
“We all want more income to move the club forward. The Virgin Money (shirt sponsorship) deal was important. Would this (Cissé) deal have happened if we had not secured the Virgin Money deal? Derek, Mike and Lee have had to work very hard to give me the funds to secure someone as important as Cissé.”
As Pardew points out, Newcastle are buying at the best time – when in a position of strength. Now his aim is to finish the season with similar freedom.
“At the start of the season, there were some people fearing we’d get involved in relegation,” he recalls.
“I always thought we had too much quality and camaraderie for that.
“We have got past that period. You look at us now with the signing of Cissé and players like Cabaye, Santon etc – we are suddenly becoming a threat.
“If we can keep everyone fit and with seven-eight games to go, keep ourselves in and around sixth or seventh, we will have less pressure on ourselves than the others. Then we can be dangerous. But we have to get ourselves in that position.”