I don’t know a single Mag who wants Alan Pardew to remain as manager of Newcastle United FC. I cannot detect a single voice putting up a cogent argument in defence of a man who is now breaking all kinds of unwanted records at our club. I didn’t think we would have a worse manager at United than Graeme Souness in my life-time but I think we now do. There is no question about it, Pardew has lost the confidence of the support and it would appear the players too.
In some ways, it is unfair on Pardew. For all of his managerial short-comings, he is not the sole reason why a team doing so well before Christmas has simply imploded. The squad is performing as many of us predicted it would back in the summer because we recognised its lack of strength in depth. Last close-season, Mike Ashley made the baffling decision to appoint Joe Kinnear as Director of Football and although the half-wit has departed his legacy remains in a woefully under-strength pool that lost its fulcrum with the sale of Yohan Cabaye in January. Selling Cabaye switched the light out on this team.
Personally, for all the discussion of Pardew’s failings: the tactics, team-selections, coaching, fallings out with players, substitutions and startling admission he can’t motivate his team, I do feel what we neglect to recognise is the role of Cabaye on and off the park. We all recognise the excellence of Cabaye’s contribution, he is one of the best central-midfielders we’ve had at the club in the last thirty years but in my view, his stature and his seniority with the other French players in particular provided leadership and direction for them. The absence of his ability, competitiveness and leadership on the pitch as well as off it has left Pardew’s team looking like a pisshead riding a bike with a buckled wheel.
Of course, Cabaye is replaceable. We have seen better players than Yohan Cabaye leave the club but the fact of the matter, the team was so tightly structured around Cabaye, tactically and almost emotionally that the failure to offer a new dimension, a new way of playing has left the team and manager utterly bereft.
If the manager has lost the confidence of the players, then that is understandable as he has lost the confidence of the supporters. Pardew has consistently promised us things would happen, particularly signings would be made and they have not. As far back as last summer Pardew was promising us players were being lined up to be signed. We know they were not. Now, you have to ask was that down to Pardew being promised by Kinnear or Ashley that deals were in development which did not come to fruition or was he deliberately misleading supporters and media?
Or was he, like Kevin Keegan stated plainly, the victim of Mike Ashley’s deliberate deceit of misleading the manager that attempts were being made to sign players but then being rowed back against when it came to sealing the signings we needed?
Remember, the hand of Mike Ashley in all of this. This isn’t the first time United has been in a position to kick on under Ashley only for the owner to row back. Remember the good place the club was in after KK’s return at the end of the 07/08 season only for that to utterly unravel under Ashley-Wise-Llambias when ultimately; Keegan would expose those men as liars in a legally constituted tribunal? Remember the promotion, followed by a statement about “no capital outlay”? Remember finishing fifth in the PL and then completely failing to strengthen the squad to cement our place at the top of the PL? Remember finishing 13 points ahead of Liverpool in that season (only the season before last) but utterly squandering our opportunity to push on? Remember this season, remember being in an excellent position on Boxing Day but then Ashley’s manoeuvring to sell Cabaye and as such finish the season? If he could have declared and maintained our PL status then, he would have, I’m absolutely sure.
This is why I remind you, Alan Pardew is simply the puppet, the stooge of Ashley, a man who has no real interest or ambition in Newcastle United beyond it providing a global bill-board for his shops.
I do not absolve the players though. There is a compelling argument that certain players have been Pardewed but at the same time, a player like Hatem Ben Arfa, so supremely gifted and with so much potential, is so clearly, so obviously, an utterly appalling professional. Ben Arfa has been unfit, namely over-weight for eighteen months. Now, there may be justifiable questions as to how Ben Arfa’s fitness was monitored whilst he was injured and back in France last season and how he was managed over a pre-season when strength and fitness are worked upon but no-one can say Ben Arfa is absolved of responsibility for allowing his physical condition to become the issue it has. Let us not forget either that senior professionals at the club have approached the manager and coaching staff at the club to raise questions about Ben Arfa’s attitude on and off the pitch.
I am sympathetic to the view that a better man-manager than Pardew would have coaxed more from Ben Arfa and we all imagine what KK and SBR would have got from Hatem. That is a strong argument against Pardew but if team-mates are complaining about him being in the team and having watched his flashes of genius subsumed in a complete disinterest in doing other vital work on the pitch then you have to wonder about the lad himself. We don’t see how hard he trains but we do see a lad who looks heavy and sluggish. It is a crying shame but Ben Arfa is squandering his own talent. He is a professional athlete but he isn’t behaving in that manner.
Where Pardew is open to question is in the widespread decline of other individuals in the squad, namely, Marveaux, who is a talented footballer in my opinion but also Santon, who has gone backwards since his early promise, Mbwia and even Krul who has lost his commanding presence of a couple of seasons ago. Sissoko’s play is often direction-less.
Steven Taylor may have tired us with all of the fist-pumps and chest beating but no-one will tell me he isn’t a better central defender than Mike Williamson, whose honest endeavour is blinding us to his Championship quality. Taylor is a better central defender than Williamson but he is another who has lost his way under Pardew. Whether Taylor’s lack of progress is due to a deteriorating relationship with the club because of his agent, Willie McKay, I could only speculate upon.
Cisse, so potent in his first few months with the club looks absolutely shot. Played out of position to accommodate Demba Ba’s moods and then asked to perform a target man role for the team last season has left him shattered. Follow that up with the club’s dubious response to his genuine concerns regarding Ashley’s shirt sponsor and him being touted for sale across anywhere from the Middle East to the Russian steppes and you are left with a pretty demoralised No.9.
There are others – Bigigrama, a lad who had played 20 games in the Championship for Coventry the season before we signed him and played regularly in the PL last season has vanished from view. Don’t laugh but Pardew has not been able to coax anything from Obertan either.
But I don’t blame Pardew for the chronic lack of talent that has come though the Academy’s ranks to be available for selection. I don’t blame Pardew for the Academy’s failure to achieve Cat 1 status at the same time as everyone else.
I don’t blame Pardew for being only able to call upon Shola Ameobi and Luuk De Jong as his striking options, though I do question Cisse being stuck wide right.
The point I’m making is that behind everything, despite Pardew’s abundant and growing limitations to manage a large PL football club is Mike Ashley, undermining, manoeuvring, working his own agenda from Berkshire, cold, disinterested, dispassionate, looking only at the bottom line and dreaming of putting the club in such a position he can get it sold and make that handsome profit he dreams about, forever sore at having his pants taken down in the deal to buy United from Shepherd/Hall in 2007.
The day Ashley leaves United will be a very, very good one but leave he will and that thought should sustain us through these grim days.
We’ll be doing something this week we’ve done 110 times before but for the last time. We’ll be sending TF111 to the printers. It will be the last issue we’ll have on paper before we move to a 100% Digital format with our summer special (TF112). It’s a bittersweet moment for all of us who have been involved with true faith from its earliest days because we’ve all worked hard to develop it into what it is today, namely one of the best fanzines in the country and something many of you tell us you really value. I understand completely what many of you have expressed about the sadness about leaving print behind because you value what we’ve been knocking out. That is very flattering. I’m sure I’ll be a little emotional myself (soft shite klaxon) when I make the trip to the printers this week to pick up my own personal TF stash for the last time. But having had discussions this week with others about the Digital TF format have me absolutely convinced this isn’t the end of an era but the beginning of another. The potential is enormous.
That said, TF111 does mark the end of a big part of what we’ve been trying to achieve for you over the last fifteen years and it’s a cracking issue which will inform and entertain in equal measure, with brilliant design and complete originality. It will be in the shops this weekend and everyone here very much hopes you buy the little fellas.
Chin up, we’re Newcastle United … and we’ll never be defeated!