For all the slings and arrows aimed at Alan Pardew since Newcastle United’s fortunes have begun to decline, he has stayed constant about one thing: never, ever hang your players out to dry in public.
High-profile stars have made demands that, on occasion, might have been deemed ripe for criticism.
Demba Ba bristling after being asked to come off the bench at Everton was one, while Jonás Gutiérrez’s declaration that the team didn’t work hard enough in training seemed like another.
On both occasions the Newcastle manager defused the situation by admitting that the players had a point rather than seeking confrontation with important dressing room leaders.
The reason for this is very simple: experience. Pardew explained last season he had mellowed somewhat from the ambitious young manager who would confront players over what he felt was a challenge to his leadership.
In football, he explained, you choose your battles.
Presumably the same logic has been applied to Yohan Cabaye being excused from action at Manchester City on Monday. Aware that the France international is a more sensitive soul than others, Pardew aimed his ire at Arsenal rather than the player in the wake of the Gunners’ £10m bid.
It is a tactic repeated up and down the country, not least at Manchester United and Tottenham, where Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney have avoided criticism despite making life difficult for their managers by mapping out their desire to leave their respective clubs.
It is the wrong tactic, I believe, for Newcastle. Withdrawing Cabaye sent out the wrong message and put United on the back foot from the start at the Etihad, so there has to be a measure of dismay that Pardew admits there is a possibility he may not play against West Ham either. What is Cabaye’s reasoning here? That the shock of Arsenal’s interest was enough to take his head out of the game for a week?
That is playing fast and loose with the devotion and admiration of supporters who have given him the platform to attract interest from Champions League clubs.
If Cabaye has gone on strike, Newcastle’s fans should know. It would be a dereliction of duty and a matter for further disciplinary action.
If he hasn’t – as appears the case here – he must be pressed into action against Sam Allardyce’s side.
Whatever the nuances of Cabaye’s mood – and a busy agent who let the world know of interest in his client hardly helped – he is paid to play for Newcastle. The least a manager who has protected him from criticism deserves is for Cabaye to turn out against West Ham.
How Pardew needs him. On Monday, the pressure was piled back on to the Newcastle manager after a summer where he had talked well about renewal, revival and rediscovering focus.
For all that he might have been sincere, there didn’t feel like much difference from the collapses against Sunderland and Liverpool as the black and white challenge dissolved in record time at the Etihad. Granted, City have enough ability and attacking fury to make you wonder whether any team will beat them on their own patch, but there was a ragged ill-discipline about Newcastle.
Pardew has spoken at length about his priority this season – threatening the opposition goal more.
Papiss Cissé’s anonymity on Monday was so complete that he may as well have spent the second half in the team hotel with the stewing Cabaye.
Surely this must have been a source of displeasure for Pardew, despite his public proclamation that the team gave a “good account” of themselves for much of the first half?
It is too early to talk of a D-Day for Pardew, but discontent will grow if Newcastle don’t improve on Saturday.
Not unreasonably, either.