Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We Need To Talk About Alan

Newcastle United fans have been accused of lacking patience when it comes to Alan Pardew.  The narrative amongst the press and punditry was that the sackpardew.com participants were too quick to protest against the manager after just four games of the season, that they and Newcastle fans in general have ideas above their station, even if the club were bottom of the league.

Of course, that ignored the awful performances last season.  Fans protested the owner at the home game against Cardiff back in early May and made it clear they wanted Pardew out then too, months before sackpardew.com picked up momentum.  Lazy commentators only casting a sideways glance towards the club every now and then forget such things though.

Pardew Out - 3rd May 2014

If anything, the games early in the season where Pardew received no stick whatsoever were further proof of the patience of Newcastle supporters and their refusal to do anything that might harm the team or the club.   Unrest was only sparked into action once again by his awful results culminating in a four nil capitulation to Southampton, and persisted while the club remained in the bottom three.  Proper relegation form having lasted over ten months by then.

Invariably, given Mike Ashley's refusal to sack Pardew, he's eventually won some games, and now the narrative has changed to one where Newcastle fans are supposed to be fickle.  The  logical disconnect to this line of argument is so blatant it's staggering to see anybody engage in it and be taken seriously. It completely ignores the previous narrative described.  If Newcastle fans have suddenly decided en masse that we're happy with things at the club now, how can we also be described as too demanding?  Eighth in the league will win us nothing, even if we maintain it, yet we're beaten with one stick for demanding more than the club has delivered for 45 years and beaten with another for gladly celebrating wins that lift us to mid-table and refusing to complain about our lot now that we're not desparately close to relegation.

The fact is, despite what you'll often be told, Newcastle fans expectations are not high at all, collectively we make no demands whatsoever for winning trophies, the vast majority haven't seen Newcastle win anything, why would it be expected? Nor is there any demand for european qualification.  There's no impatience and to correct Craig Bellamy, notions of being Liverpool or Manchester United are completely absent.  A club with England's third biggest average attendance, third highest profits, fifth richest owner and the seventh highest revenue, yet all that is demanded is not to be relegated. We can only dream of anything better, not demand it. Imagine Spurs fans being as supine.

In reality, Newcastle fans have never liked Alan Pardew or wanted him at their club. From the moment he took Chris Hughton's job he was unpopular on Tyneside.  Newcastle fans had seen his record and knew it was no better than Hughton, They knew his reputation in the game and the lack of professionalism he'd shown time and again in previous jobs.  There has been an indifferent tolerance of the man as long as he maintained the low standards Mike Ashley has for the club, once exceeding them with a Europa League qualification. Even a 16th place finish didn't raise too many murmurs of discontent, but the current record of 31 points from 31 games has seen that tolerance tested to breaking point.

Two signs held aloft at St James' Park seeming to back Pardew at recent games are insignificant in comparison to the 30,000 sackpardew signs distributed (and largely confiscated) at the Hull game. The minority of fans still happy to watch Pardew's brand of turgid football after a run of four wins in a row are the same minority that were unwilling to demand his sacking after just five wins in ten months.  There has been no change of heart from anyone.  Just the resumption of tolerance and refusal to rock the boat until he's next unable to halt a dramatic slide towards the bottom.

Below I will keep an eye on Pardew's longer term failings by looking at his record since Newcastle finished fifth.  We're into 3 seasons since that limited success now and there are few clubs that have been in the league since then performing as badly as Newcastle.

Update: Pardew left Newcastle with 95 games played since finishing 5th, this was the final set of stats covering that period.