Alan Pardew has embarked on an unprecedented project in Premier League football. Chief sports writer Mark Douglas hears the Newcastle manager explain the thinking behind his long-term contract.
IT was day two of the 2,920-day project for Alan Pardew yesterday, and time to fill in some blanks.
Thursday’s buzz words – in no particular order – were stability, consistency and progression.
Pardew’s task ahead of today’s trip to Reading was to put the flesh on the bones for fans who like the idea of a long-term vision but remain to be convinced that Mike Ashley has struck on the right way to success.
They are terrific sentiments, and Pardew’s target of winning a trophy is admirable. But can Newcastle really continue to plot an upward curve using a blueprint that offers such minimal margin for error?
This week, for example, United will play three important games shorn of their three most important players – Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini and Yohan Cabaye. But they would not have lost the skipper on Wednesday had it not been for the board’s reticence to sign a centre-back in the summer transfer window.
Indeed, the chief anxiety among the Tyneside public is that Ashley’s model is about investing faith in trusted employees rather than investing tangible funds in the playing staff. On that front, they may be disappointed by the answer that Pardew provided when The Journal queried him on whether he had gone looking for assurances on investment. So did he ask for any?
“No, because I don’t think the model will change,” he replied. “I can’t see Mike changing a model he thinks works. I know the type of animal he is and if he thinks the model works, he’ll stick with it.
“So our model is quite clear and we have to make sure that if we do lose a player that we bring in two who are better – and that’s not easy to do. We haven’t done a bad job of it so far. Somewhere along the line, we going to lose a big player here – it happens to all clubs, even Man United. So you need to be positive in how you react to that.”
If finance is not going to be forthcoming, what are United doing differently from their rivals to try and make up the ground?
Pardew feels that the trust that flows between key men at St James’ Park is a key factor. He drew on the example of Everton, where David Moyes was afforded time and space to rebuild the club despite some initial hiccups, as proof of the importance of everyone rowing in the same direction.
“One of the problems they have had in the past is the uncertainty at board level,” he explained.
“Sometimes in the past boards think you have a personal agenda or are not pulling solely for the club. That you have your own personal ambition before anything else. I think sometimes, when you are younger that doesn’t get in the way.
“I wouldn’t say that hasn’t happened to myself. But I under-stand now what it takes to win a game of football, what it takes to run a club as manager. This gives me a great opportunity to do it at a club that is one of the best in the land.”
Therein lies the rub for Newcastle. A major part of the project is Pardew himself, and the success or failure of the next few years will rely heavily on his own contribution. John Carver will play a massive part too, plus Steve Stone and influential chief scout Graham Carr, handed his own eight-year deal over the summer.
It is a massive responsibility on the manager, who will need to ensure Newcastle stay in the top eight for each of the next eight seasons. It says it all that he has enough confidence in his own ability to accept the challenge.
“I’ve definitely changed over the last couple of years,” he said. “You know, like players, managers have got to have confidence as well. You’ve got to have confidence in your ability to make tough calls
“Fortunately, most of those have been okay or worked well. That gives you a confidence that you can manage a club of this size. That part of me has changed. But over the last two or three jobs, I certainly sensed in myself that I feel like I’ve settled down in terms of the job.
“It’s the kind of job where you can get mixed up in and start thinking that everything is not working the way you’d want it to work, and perhaps you interfere too much and you don’t delegate very well.
“That might sound a bit contrived, but you kind of start thinking I need to do something here or there, but as you get a bit more experienced, you realise you don’t actually.
“You don’t need to be a perfectionist – I was worried about the wallpaper and everything else! I’m like that, I’ve got that kind of OCD going on, so I have to reel myself back a little bit from that.
“I’ve managed to get better at that. John Carver has helped and so has having good staff. I’m really pleased that when I arrived at the club I kept the staff on.
“I think that’s been very important to me. People talk about the winning spirit, Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Chris’s (Hughton) Championship team, and the staff were a big part as well, that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Derek, Paul the doctor, Liz in the kitchen – all those people play a big part in a club like this.”
Having done his homework, Pardew knows what a tough ask it is to break the long wait for a major trophy – yet he still mentioned it.
Top marks for ambition, not least when Newcastle’s chances of ending the draught were reduced by the mid-week defeat at Manchester United. Does he not feel pressure?
“That might put an added pressure on myself but really and truly if you are not in this game to handle the pressure then you shouldn’t be in it,” he replied.
“The percentage chance of me winning a trophy at Manchester United will be a lot higher than here but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. I love it here.
“I have not enjoyed football on the management side as much as I have enjoyed it here. After the circumstances I arrived in I would not have assumed it has gone as well as it has gone.
“I want to make sure it continues. It wasn’t me asking Mike for eight years to win a trophy at this club. Mike approached me about eight years. That was good for my mind set. I can weigh up all the other ingredients I need.”