Opinion. It’s the very basis on which democracy, free society, and on a slightly smaller scale, this website flourishes. At The Spectator’s View, we believe that opinion is the very essence of “fanship” – if that’s a word – and here we look to explore two strong contrasting views about a very pertinent topic.
In recent times, a very pressing issue has occupied vocal Newcastle fans in and around the many public houses across Newcastle: should Alan Pardew be sacked? Though the Newcastle board have developed the unfortunate reputation of intolerance in recent times, namely due to the fact that we’ve somehow ploughed through eight managers in the last six years, Pardew has been at the helm since December 2010. However, having failed to match the dizzy heights of last season’s fifth place finish, many fans have in unison called for Pardew’s head. Here, we explore whether firing him would be a sensible option.
Points of Discussion
- This season’s domestic failings
- Dubious tactical decisions
- The quality of the squad
- The never-ending injury list
- European Success
FOR – Harry Savill
The club, having developed an understandable reputation of intolerance, it’s very easy to cast off any negativity aimed at a Newcastle manager as merely lazy irrationality. While Sam Allardyce was supposedly not given enough time at the club to prove his worth, Chris Hughton was dramatically relieved of his duties with the club sitting 11th in league having only been promoted five months earlier.
However, unlike on these past occasions when I severely disagreed with the rashness of the board, in this case, I strongly advocate the need for change. I do, however, want to separate myself from the minority of fans who believe the club are ‘too big’ for a manager like Pardew. Though I was at first apprehensive about his appointment, thinking perhaps he didn’t have what it takes to pilot a club of Newcastle’s stature, he showed last season that he is most definitely a decent manager, who can positively respond to pressure.
And of course mistakes are inevitable, especially in a game which can be decided on the smallest of maljudgements. Nonetheless, if you do make a mistake, I strongly believe that the person has to take the blame and admit their faults. Thus, one of the main issues I take with Pardew is that he quite frankly frequently does the opposite. This season has, at least domestically, been a disaster, and I have become increasingly infuriated by Pardew’s cowardly habit of blaming other people or other factors for these failings. I can’t count the number of occasions where we’ve heard Pardew blame the excessive Europa League demands for our league shortcomings, or the extensive injury list that has ripped apart our squad. I am tired of the excuses.
Alternatively, many people would argue that these factors are in fact beyond his control. Admittedly, we have been unlucky at times this season, but Pardew certainly hasn’t made it any easier for us. Dubious starting XI’s, unsuccessful formations and bizarre substitutions have ravished a potentially fruitful season. The 4-2-3-1 system he fervountly uses is ineffective and has failed to convincingly set alight our only real attacking option in Papiss Cisse.
In addition, his strange obsession with starting Jonas Gutierrez week in week out has further furstrated me. Though evidently Jonas is a sweet guy, quite honestly, there’s no room for emotional loyalty in a team pursuing European qualification. I have often openly opposed him as a player and I can’t understand Pardew’s thinking that he warrants that seemingly concrete first-team place. On occasion, he’s used the classic ‘lack of squad depth’ excuse, which though true for the first part of the season (another transfer failing), it can certainly not be used in this second half of the season; we have used 33 players this Premier League campaign, which is more than any other team!
The 3-0 capitulation against Sunderland will in my mind be the lasting memory of this season. It will stick in the mind of all Newcastle fans for a very long time, and one can’t simply expel the hurt felt after that embarrassment. As the great Alan Shearer said last week: “This is Sunderland at home. There is no room to be tired — you are simply not allowed to be tired”. Even if tiredness were a valid excuse, the players didn’t even look motivated, and Pardew, as manager, naturally has the responsibility to motivate the players.
Quite often, these frustrations are hard to explain. I don’t quite think many contemporary football fans can empathise with the emotional roller coaster that Newcastle fans are submitted to each season. Though Pardew is undoubtedly a good man – a good manager, even – I do think it’s time for a change. I say we show some ambition and try to get a manager who has a winning mentality and is tactically astute. Under a new manager, with our current set of player, we can go places!
AGAINST – Brian Gramman
Have Newcastle endured a poor season? Absolutely.
But now is most certainly not the time to overreact.
Alan Pardew, reigning Premier League Manager of the Season, had deserved some of the criticism he has received, both for tactical miscues and poor excuses made in his press conferences. This will not be a season that he’ll want written about on his tombstone.
However, placing the blame for the Magpies’ season entirely on his shoulders is utterly ridiculous.
For starters, look at the hand he’s been dealt this season. The club’s injuries are well documented, but sometimes it is easy to forget just how detrimental they’ve been to the team. Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Tim Krul, Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor and many more have missed a significant amount of time. And don’t forget the club’s captain and top defender, Fabricio Coloccini, nearly quit the club in January and has been noticeably absent nearly the entire second half of the season.
Last year the club’s surprising fifth place finish came about via an incredible record of fitness. Other than Steven Taylor and Hatem Ben Arfa (for just a few games), the core of Newcastle remained knock-free.
For the first half of the current season, Pardew managed a club largely unchanged over the summer. The only difference, of course, is that far more key players missed far more key matches. And more reserves on the pitch, regardless of who is managing the club, will lead to more reserve-worthy performances. It may be frustrating that Pardew uses the same injury excuse every week, but that doesn’t make it invalid.
In the second half, some will say that Pardew has absolutely no excuse for the club’s record. Five January signings were brought in from France, but Newcastle’s fortunes have not improved nearly enough.
This is a classic example of inflated expectations. When Newcastle won their first two games (at Aston Villa and vs. Chelsea) after their new signings arrived on Tyneside, fans’ sights were set on the top half of the table. But in reality, throwing a multitude of new signings in the starting XI takes time to fully deliver results, especially when it occurs halfway through a season.
Think about it. On Saturday against West Brom, Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, and Massadio Haidara were all on the pitch. Half of Newcastle’s ten starting outfield players on Saturday came over to the club in late January. There was no summer for them to train together. No friendlies to gain game experience together. Not an easy situation for a manager by any stretch of the imagination.
It was easy for the club in 2012 with just Papiss Cisse coming over last January, but five new faces in the first team will take time to integrate. You could have a team built entirely with the best players on the planet, but they won’t win much if they’re complete strangers.
Pardew has needed to manage his club on the field in both domestic and European competitions while integrating half of a starting XI into the club, all without the help of his captain.
Despite all this, Newcastle reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League, something very few expected from the club especially after drawing Russian giants Anzhi Makhachkala in the Round of 16.
Newcastle supporters seem to have no trouble remembering Pardew’s tactical mistakes, such as pretty much any formation he tried using both Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse before the former left for Chelsea. But how quickly have we forgotten his excellent work in the 0-0 draw away at Anzhi? Against the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Pardew’s defensive tactics worked absolute wonders, and the club was a Hatem Ben Arfa chip away from completing the unthinkable in Russia.
And even if every single problem the club has endured could be blamed on Pardew, who is the knight in shining armor that will be running to Newcastle’s rescue?
Call me crazy, but I don’t see Vicente del Bosque sitting by the phone waiting for Mike Ashley to call.
All jokes aside, there are a few respectable candidates that have been brought up (Laurent Blanc is a name occasionally mentioned), but why would they come to Newcastle?
With Ashley as an owner, the chances of picking up a high profile coach are always going to be slim. His track record of firing managers long before they’ve had a chance to fully establish themselves is well documented. Now, if Pardew is fired just after being given an eight-year contract, what would that say about managerial job security at St James’ Park? Only the youngest, hungriest, most unproven managerial candidates will want the job if they aren’t guaranteed time to create the team they want.
Firing a manager is a great option until you realize you have to hire someone else.
Let’s throw in a little historical context for those calling for Pardew’s head. Not since Ipswich Town’s George Burley in 2002 has a manager been let go by his club just a season after receiving both the League Manager’s Association Manager of the Year and Premier League Manager of the Season awards.
You don’t win those awards just by being lucky, and the track record of the recipients makes this undeniably clear.
David Moyes, Arsene Wenger, Steve Coppell, Sir Alex Ferguson, and Roy Hodgson are the other managers to win the LMA Manager of the Year over the past decade. All of them are excellent managers, and all of them have had at least one season in their careers that they aren’t proud of.
What if David Moyes had been fired when Everton finished 17th in 2003-04? Like Pardew, Moyes was in his second full season with the club, and like Pardew, he had won Manager of the Year the previous season.
Everton decided to stick with their manager, and it clearly has paid dividends.
Now, Newcastle United must do the same with their gaffer.
The Tyne-Wear derby thrashing was painful and emotionally devastating. But Newcastle supporters must keep a level head, understand the circumstances, and trust that after regrouping and replenishing over the summer, this club will take this season as a learning experience and be far better for it.
The man to lead them there is Alan Pardew.
Let us know what you think in the comment section below. Is Pardew still the man to bring success to this great football club, or would we better off looking for alternatives come May?