Are we being a bit harsh on Alan Pardew?
Constant excuses and backward tactics are annoying to put up with in any sport, but at Newcastle United, we had to get used to it for about 30 games of the season. From pushing referees, goading opposition managers to a passionate and heartfelt embrace with Newcastle fans after Papiss Cissé fired in a 94th minute winner; Alan Pardew experienced quite a third season managing the biggest club in the north-east. Then came the derby defeat, a terrible performance summed up by a wonder goal from David Vaughan, his first and only goal of the season if I remember correctly. Last but not least was Newcastle's crucial win away at Queens Park Rangers. Another awful performance but aided by even worse defending from the hosts - a mistake from Jose Bosingwa helping Yoan Gouffran to slide home the goal to keep us in the division. Pardew claims we played well, and even commented in the last few days that apart from the Top 6, we were the best team in the league for the 15 games of the season.
It is easy to criticise Pardew for Newcastle's poor season, rather, there is little else to do. His tactics were pretty poor for the majority of the season and his decision to start playing Moussa Sissoko on the wing was quite extraordinary, and not in a good way. Indeed his neglection of £7m summer signing Vurnon Anita was quite depressing, opting instead to start an out-of-form Cheick Tioté who seemed to take it on himself to try to lose the ball as much as he could in 90 minutes of play. That was when Tioté played mind you, which was not that often.
To be fair, some moments of this season were quite incredible; even spine-tingling. Moussa Sissoko's performance against Chelsea in front of a packed out St. James’ Park was a particular highlight. It looked as if we had thrown away any chance of getting a result when Juan Mata popped a beauty into the top corner beyond Tim Krul, then came Super Sissoko to the rescue. A simple tap-in after a great break from Gouffran, then the moment that will go down as one of few highlights this season.
Davide Santon cuts inside before laying it back to Sissoko who gets his body over the shot in a feat of great technique then drills it beyond a despairing Petr Cech. 3 points; victory over the European Championship, and an instant repayment from Sissoko for his £1.3m transfer fee.
Our European adventure was quite good too. Wins away at Metalist will go down in the memory, while I think Papiss Cissé's brilliant header with literally the last action of the game to send us through to the quarter-finals was quite incredible. His celebration was even better, reminiscent of a certain Temur Ketsbia and his billboard bombardment.
Then came out visit to Benfica, and the disappointment that was in store. I watched the game in a pub and not even multiple pints of Guinness could take away the dismay of losing out in the first leg. We started brilliantly, Cissé firing us ahead for a change (!), then another attempt from the African trickled against the post before being cleared to safety.
Benfica eventually managed an equaliser before going on to win the game courtesy of two dreadful mistakes from Steven Taylor and Davide Santon. Those mishaps came after Cissé rattled the post once again — it wasn't meant to be our night. We welcomed them to St. James’ for the return leg and battered at their door for the majority of the game, Cissé having two goals ruled offside before eventually nodding us into the lead. We pressed and pressed, even brought Ben Arfa on to help secure a 2-0 lead to send us into the semi-finals but it didn't happen. Cardozo exploited our vulnerable ‘defence’ and assisted an equaliser for the visitors. Game over, tie over - goodnight Irene.
Bringing all this back to the point of the article, have we been a little harsh on a certain Mr. Pardew?
Injuries have been woeful this season, we lost our leading goalscorer in January then could not buy a win for love nor money.
Alan Pardew oversaw all this, took the brunt of criticism from the fans, and accepted responsibilities for failings (to a certain extent) but almost lost his job after it all.
Talks between the board and Pardew took place and details of the season were thrashed out, eventually resulting in Pardew keeping his job. But then again, he is allowed one bad season right? Are a large chunk of Newcastle United fans being too pushy looking for Pardew to be sacked, or have they every right to be aggrieved after the season we've had?
Every day so far this summer in brings managerial departures and it just proves how volatile the top division in England has become. Pardew is now the third longest-serving manager in the leaving following the departures of David Moyes, Alex Ferguson, Tony Pulis to name but a few. Many would argue longevity is the key to any successful business/model, and that seems exactly the blueprint Newcastle United want to follow.
Like it or lump it, Pardew will be at St. James’ Park for the foreseeable future with Mike Ashley in charge - providing he shows signs of progress. A top 10 finish is the aim next year, but will be quite difficult depending on what business we do this summer.
One last time, has Pardew been dealt a little ‘heavy-handed’ as he would say himself or is the silver-haired Tony Pulis in disguise deserving of the critics that continue to call for his head?
Comments welcome as always folks 🙂
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