ALAN Pardew knows Newcastle United fans expect their side to play with style, but the new manager will not be afraid to win ugly when needed.
Only last week, Sam Allardyce was sacked by Blackburn Rovers, with his direct style of football a major factor. Allardyce’s approach won even fewer friends at St James’ Park, where the emphasis on playing with panache is historically far greater.
Having worked at West Ham United, a club with a similar ethos to Newcastle’s, Pardew took the Magpies job knowing he would be expected to entertain – but he has warned winning will always be his priority.
In Kevin Keegan’s first spell in charge, Newcastle won a reputation as arguably the most attractive team in the country. Keegan used attack as the first, second and third line of defence and built teams around goalscorers and exciting wingers. The slightly more pragmatic Sir Bobby Robson also enjoyed success with attacking, passing football.
The arguments about style over substance have raged ever since, with Allardyce and Joe Kinnear criticised for their directness, but Chris Hughton’s not dissimilar approach was largely accepted.
Pardew knows he was an unpopular choice to replace Hughton and is mindful of not alienating supporters further by not playing in the club’s traditions.
"If I didn’t do that I’d be doing the club a disservice," he said. "But you need to win games. I need to do my most important work on the training ground but that work needs to reflect the history of the club. The way we play needs to represent Newcastle in the manner that it should be.
"The crowd wants the Newcastle team to play a brand of football to get them on their feet but that ain’t going to happen all the time. I’d love a few 1-0 wins, there’s nothing would give me more pleasure.
"If we can play a game where we retain possession enough to hurt the opposition rather than not hurting them or keeping turning the ball over then somewhere in there is my style."
Pardew’s dilemma is that in Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll he has two strikers perfectly suited to the football Allardyce and Kinnear favoured.
In his first game in charge, against Liverpool, Carroll served another reminder that few Premier League central defenders can cope with him in the air.
Newcastle’s players have been given a couple of days off after Saturday’s match at Birmingham City was postponed, but the next time they take to the field it could be against the league leaders.
Manchester City are the visitors for the first Boxing Day match at St James’ since 2001. Victory over Everton this evening will put Roberto Mancini’s team top of the Premier League table on Christmas Day.
Newcastle’s match at St Andrew’s was called off at noon on Saturday because of safety concerns over the surrounding roads. No new date for the game has been announced yet.
Meanwhile, Pardew has not given up hope of keeping Steven Taylor beyond the end of the season, despite the transfer-listed former England Under-21 captain rejecting a contract extension. Fresh talks are planned for this week, with Pardew promising to fight the centre-back’s corner.
"Steven wants it to be right for him, a fair contract for his ability," he said. "I will sit down with him and his agent and try to work out a resolution.
"But if he could, I think he would stay."
Taylor has started Newcastle’s last three games – his first competitive outings since a succession of injuries began in January – but is likely to lose his place at the weekend with Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini back from suspension.
Taylor’s contract expires in June, when he can leave on a free transfer. He is officially allowed to talk to non-English clubs from a week on Saturday.