ALAN Pardew knows better than to say the re-naming of St James’ Park doesn’t matter – but when it comes to Newcastle United tilting for a 12th unbeaten game at Manchester City, the controversial move really doesn’t register.
Pardew trod a fine line when questioned on a move that prompted enough outrage for one long-standing fan to chisel the memorial brick bought in honour of his late father this week.
It is not the first time fans have been outraged since Pardew has taken over. But in terms of the impact on the team, he knows it is a different kind of issue – especially given that it will have little immediate impact on the task facing his team on Saturday.
He said: “I don’t really see this one as problematic as some of the others in the past, in terms of letting it affect us.
“Losing someone like Andy Carroll had an immediate affect on us and not being able to replace him. This is a different type of situation and perhaps it is more sensitive, more emotive, for the fans.”
Asked whether it had burst some of the feel-good factor surrounding the city, Pardew acknowledged that it might have.
With a huge game against Manchester City on the horizon, though, he doesn’t feel that the toxic reaction of supporters to the move has seeped into the dressing room.
“I suppose you could say (it has affected the feel-good factor) around the city but not the playing staff. Really not,” he said.
“I don’t see how it has affected us in and around the training ground staff, we have a couple of traditionalists but they understand and I think the logic of what it is hasn’t really impacted on the playing side.
“Of course you can understand how they feel, but my point is that the Gallowgate End is still there, the Leazes End is still there, the same seats are still there, you’re still turning up. I don’t want to harp on about it because it’s a sensitive issue for me, but for the rest of us it’s very much let’s get on with the job that we’re doing and we’re doing a pretty job at the minute.”
As a manager who has taken time to meet supporters and attempt to understand the traditions of the football club he took over, Pardew is more than aware of what St James’ Park means to the fans.
But as a coach operating within strict financial parameters, he would also welcome the financial boost of getting a major sponsor on board.
“People aren’t ever particularly comfortable with change,” he added. “You get comfortable with what you know around you, but lots of things change.
“Clubs have to move on and I hope our fans understand that. They’ll still be in their same seats roaring us on. The memories of that stadium are still there and that’s important. When you are moving stadium that’s a bit different.”
Pardew’s focus is on the more pressing matter of stopping Roberto Mancini’s unbeaten Citizens, a team he ranks as the “third best in Europe” at the moment.
“They are top of the league and the biggest scalp. Outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid, they look like being one of the three best teams in Europe,” he said.
“I’m sure (Manchester United manager) Sir Alex (Ferguson) won’t like me saying that and he’ll probably ring me, but they are. We have to knock them off their perch, that’s what we’re all trying to do in the Premier League.”