Alan Pardew has become untouchable at Newcastle United.
Looking down the Premier League table on the final day of the season, half of those clubs might have new managers at the start of the next campaign. Pepe Mel’s departure at West Brom – which everyone saw coming – was the start of a managerial merry-go-round that could see TimSherwood, Mauricio Pocchettino, Ryan Giggs, Sam Allardyce and Paul Lambert all forced out in the next few days.
Not at St James’ Park, though. After a great start to the season Alan has had a shocking 2014, and each entry on his charge sheet would have been enough to see off most managers. Insult Manuel Pellegrini? Still safe. Headbutt an opposition player? No chance of the sack. Lose six straight games? You get a bonus.
Now it seems as if the club are set to confirm that Alan stays on and that means one thing for me: as long as Mike Ashley is at the club, Alan will be too. They now come as a pair.
The owner looks to me like he has taken the easy option. In the managerial market Alan is relatively cheap and he is willing to take instructions from the board, which ticks two of the boxes that Ashley is looking to tick.
I feel so sorry for Newcastle United’s supporters now because the message they have been given is that 10th is good enough, we’ll sell our best player and we don’t even really care about the Cups anymore.
In a season where Liverpool have done a pretty good impression of the Entertainers of Kevin Keegan’s era they have been forgotten this season and now they’re being told that the performance of the manager and the players was considered good enough.
If that is the approach from the top maybe Alan is the best man for them. He will get on with it, he won’t complain and he will work with the owner closely. Newcastle fans won’t be happy about it but everyone knows where they stand.
It is all such a long way away from Keegan’s era when Newcastle fans could dream about things. Now the ambition is gone and the owner seems to want to do it on the cheap.
A bit of me wonders why Alan wants to keep doing it next season. In my career I loved proving people wrong, and I think that must be what is motivating Alan to continue at Newcastle, but his job next season is going to be the toughest of any manager in the entire division.
Newcastle seem as if they’re going to spend and spend quite big this summer, but that actually only piles more pressure on Alan. None of the things that we saw against Cardiff – the supporter unrest, the boos, the chants and the rest – are going to be too far from people’s minds if results start to tail off again.
The fans made their feelings very, very clear and that will make it difficult for Newcastle at the first sign of trouble.
And then he has to walk into the dressing room and get them back onside again. That is the toughest job that he has to do because a winning mentality cannot be turned on or off like a tap. It is not forgotten over the summer when things go against you – it is earned week-in, week-out by grinding out results and that has escaped Newcastle since New Year.
Alan is fortunate that the end of the season saved things from getting much worse. He will also benefit from the fact that footballers are very singular when it comes to their summer and he will not be the only manager who will be dealing with a dressing room where everyone could leave.
At Newcastle, just about every player at the club will be on the phone to their agent now.
Allow me to let you into a secret: at every club in the land the first phone call that 90% of players make at the start of the close season is to their agent. Whether it was a good, bad or indifferent season they want to know what is out there for them because the summer is a big opportunity.
I remember one summer when I went off on holiday to a beach somewhere after a long, hard season with Everton. I had a great time – football was forgotten, the long, hard season was a distant memory as I lounged in the sun.
Then one day I got sight of a British ‘paper and I was being linked away from Everton. I think they were saying I was going to go to Leeds and that was interesting. I’d heard nothing, but the next day I went to the paper shop and it was a different club.
Then it was another one and another one after that. Each day it was another club and, of course, I wanted to know what was out there.
Footballers are like that: the game is tough so you become quite selfish. You have to look out for yourself and Newcastle’s players will be no different. From the moment they sign out for the summer they won’t be thinking about Alan Pardew, and the only time they’ll start to think about the manager again is when they are back for the first day of pre-season.
The club have such a massive job to do this summer. They have to sign eight or nine new players on a budget and they have to persuade players who, looking at it from the outside, might not have liked what they’ve seen from the manager.
I still think they have to go British. They have to be smart, they have to do some proper research on the players coming in and they need Premier League experience. Everton are the model now.
I think back to when I was in my prime and I wonder if I would choose Newcastle United in its current state. As a local lad I probably would still look at them as one of the best options outside the top four – but would others?
It is still a fantastic club that gets 50,000 people to games, and St James’ Park is an amazing place to play, but Liverpool have gone ahead of them this season, and so have Everton and probably Southampton too.
It is a long way back for the club and Alan has a huge job to do, even if his job seems like one of the safest in the division.