Alan Pardew is now a dead man walking at Newcastle United.
The only thing keeping him in his job is Mike Ashley’s attitude to the club. There is a lack of leadership that comes right from the top and I’m not convinced the owner cares enough to act to stop this slide – and that is saving Alan from going the same way that Chris Hughton went at Norwich this weekend.
The problem at Newcastle is that the decisions taken right at the top are coming home to roost. I don’t know whether there is anyone at the club who is brave enough to stand up to Mike Ashley and question what he is doing, but it is time for someone to do that or the club is going to go one way.
Now the owner has got two solutions when it comes to Alan: back him this summer or sack him. The third option – keeping him on but not backing him to do the job – is the one that he has taken this season and it has wrecked Newcastle’s season and brought them to the point where they are the one Premier League team that everyone wants to play at the moment.
Newcastle were absolutely dreadful against Manchester United. Alan needed a response from his team to illustrate that he can still motivate them but what he got was more of the same: a disinterested team that are mentally on the beach. I have never known a run like it in the Premier League era and they were all wrong against Manchester United. They started like a team hoping to nick a draw. I would highlight Davide Santon’s role in the first goal as a symptom of the problems Newcastle have.
He was all over the place but a bigger problem was his attitude. When the second goal goes in I calculated that he was on the halfway line, some 20 yards from the penalty area. Juan Mata was 30 yards away, so if he had just jogged back he would still have got himself in front of Mata. What happened? Nothing. He just let it happen.
That is a massive worry and strikes right to the heart of things. You are now questioning the attitude and professionalism of some of those players, and that is the biggest you can ever pay a professional footballer. The least you should do is show a bit of fight and bottle and justify the wages you pick up.
No one at Newcastle can be pleased with themselves at the moment and the manager has big, big problems.
Alan looks like a man who wants the season to end but he should be careful what he wishes for. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the owner turned around and relieved him of his duties in the summer and he couldn’t say it was undeserved.
The kind of run he is on now might have been good enough for Reading or somewhere like that but this is Newcastle United, with 52,000 people paying their hard-earned money. A lack of motivation and players playing that way is insulting to them.
Alan will turn around and say: “Well the owner didn’t back me over Cabaye.” That is his get-out but he is the man responsible for that head-butt with David Meyler which means he can’t affect things on a match-day. That has had an effect.
And he has persevered with things for too long. The team needs width, it needs a change. There’s too many in that squad picking up a wage who the manager doesn’t trust: guys like Gabriel Obertan. Why was he not sold?
I always thought that the start of the season was papering over the cracks a bit.
They didn’t have any width and they needed Yohan Cabaye, who was a great player, to create and make them rise above the ordinary teams. I was never sure about Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran as wingers. Maybe it is time to look at Sylvain Marveaux, Hatem Ben Arfa or even someone like Obertan on the wings. Show a bit of intent. They don’t seem to have any motivation to do well for Newcastle so maybe you say ‘Go out there and catch the eye of another manager’. They aren’t the future of Newcastle but there’s still five games to go this season.
I think Newcastle need to look at the whole strategy of the club as well: the character of that squad can really be called into question. When I was playing and a run of results was going against us, it would be pretty common that the captain would call us in for a meeting away from the manager and the coaching staff. It happened seven or eight times in my career and those meetings could be fierce. If things weren’t going well, we’d get things off our chest.
At West Ham, Alvin Martin called one and he had the respect of the senior pros. The first thing that would be said was: “Right, get your problems off your chest now. If you’ve got an issue raise it now.”
You would have players – mates and team-mates – saying to each other: ‘You’re not putting your shift in’, ‘You’re letting us down’. One or two home truths would be spoken, you’d walk out of the meeting and think: ‘I can do more as well.’
The last thing you want is a festering dressing room. The atmosphere can quickly turn toxic and the worst enemy is a player who doesn’t want to be there.
Who at Newcastle is going to do that? Fabricio Coloccini? He doesn’t even want to be there.
I said at the time that I didn’t agree with the idea of bringing so many French players into that squad. It is not a xenophobic thing: it would be the same if it was Brazilian, German or English at a club in Spain.
I just think it changes the dressing room and the dynamic of things. Where is the backbone of the club? One or two is fine, it adds something. When you’ve got six or seven they want to eat together, socialise together. It becomes difficult. If you were to have one of those clear-the-air meetings, what language would you do it in?
I actually don’t think there’s as much quality in that dressing room as people think either. Mike Ashley went to France because it was cheaper but I think you get what you pay for.
I haven’t seen anything from Sissoko to suggest he’s better than some of the domestic-based players you could have got for £4million or £5million.
They have tried to do it on the cheap but it has bitten them. I can’t think of a club in Premier League history that has needed an overhaul like the one Newcastle need and that will cost money.
They need to think very carefully about who they sign – and where they get their players from.