x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Alan Pardew a pariah on Tyneside

A poll in a local newspaper revealed only two per cent of voters wanted him as Newcastle manager, says Richard Jolly.

Alan Pardew may feel the empty seats at St James' Park reflect the number of fans who wanted him as Newcastle's new manager. Scott Heppell / AP Photo
Alan Pardew may feel the empty seats at St James' Park reflect the number of fans who wanted him as Newcastle's new manager. Scott Heppell / AP Photo

Tyneside is well-acquainted with would-be saviours named Alan. For much of the past 14 years, St James' Park has echoed to the chants of "Shearer". Twenty months ago, Newcastle's record goalscorer was parachuted in to the manager's hot seat in a bid to avoid relegation. He failed, somewhat dismally.

Now comes Alan Marque II. Alan Pardew arrives to a very different reception. If Shearer was the messiah, Pardew is the pariah. Appointed by unpopular demand, the choice of virtually no one bar owner Mike Ashley and chairman Derek Llambias, his reign commences against Liverpool today amid a sense of bemusement.

A five-and-a-half year contract has been granted to a manager who more than 98 per cent of supporters voting in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle didn't want.

Popularity is not a prerequisite for success, but can all bar two per cent of United fans be wrong? It has echoes of a similar poll conducted by the Bolton News when Wanderers appointed Gary Megson, the preferred option of just 1.7 per cent of supporters. Megson staved off demotion, but never won over his doubters.

Pardew arrives with twin added impediments. He replaces a popular predecessor and revives charges that a "Cockney mafia" are ruling Newcastle. Chris Hughton succeeded in uniting players, press and paying public behind him with his quiet dignity, common sense and more-than-respectable results.

The sacked manager transcended his roots in the capital to become an honorary Geordie. They don't play Mark Knopfler's Local Hero at St James' Park for nothing. Pardew, more of the caricature of a brash Londoner than the modest Hughton could ever be, continues the tradition of Dennis Wise and Joe "JFK" Kinnear, the unwanted imports foisted upon the natives in the north-east.

Yet that self-confidence could come in handy now. Pardew has the arrogance to believe he can succeed. His track record provides partial vindication. In four jobs, he has failed only once - at Charlton Athletic - and can claim he flourished at Reading, West Ham United and Southampton. He is a progressive coach whose sides often have utilised a commanding target man, which should favour Andy Carroll, and played with genuine width; wingers are a beloved species at St James' Park.

Yet when the negatives are exacerbated, there are damning details. Amid the climate of hostility created by the decision to dismiss Hughton, some will be savoured.

This is the manager who preferred Hayden Mullins to Javier Mascherano at West Ham. Pardew's last home league game was against Leyton Orient. His first in Newcastle is against Liverpool. They are not so much worlds apart as universes.

It is a startling change in fortunes for a man sacked by a club near the foot of League One three months ago. His reunion with Liverpool, however, offers a reminder of how close Pardew came to silverware. Only a superlative 90th-minute equaliser from Steven Gerrard stopped his West Ham side from winning the FA Cup in 2006, a trophy that eventually ended up on Merseyside.

Two of the Scouse contingent on Tyneside, Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton, are fit to return for Pardew's first game. The visitors, lacking the injured pair of Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, have fewer Liverpudlians in their side. It is another of England's great northern clubs to be invaded by men from the south.

At least Roy Hodgson, whose credibility is also questioned by his own support, may find himself in the unusual position of being the most popular manager at St James' Park tonight. But with Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in his first four games, it is an awkward introduction in every respect for Pardew at Newcastle.

sports@thenational.ae

9.30pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 3