x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Alan Pardew is in for the long haul at Newcastle United

The manager's astute signings are showing signs of long term planning.

Alan Pardew is working with the plan of having a long tenure as West Ham United manager.
Alan Pardew is working with the plan of having a long tenure as West Ham United manager.

In the red corner, the longest-serving manager in English football. In the black and white, the one with the longest contract. Assuming Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wengerretire in the meantime and Alan Pardew sees out his eight-year deal in Newcastle, he could become an unlikely inheritor of the Scot's mantle.

It is a state of affairs few predicted when Pardew was parachuted into St James' Park in December 2010; including caretakers, he was the eighth man to manage Newcastle United in less than four years of upheaval and underachievement.

Newcastle were strangers to continuity. Now they seem to be embracing it, both on and off the pitch. Their unexpected surge into the top five last season was accompanied by predictions that the players attracting plaudits would soon bring in profits.

The Newcastle business model, derided in the days when they overspent on ageing egos, was becoming admired as they unearthed talent after talent.

Yet they all remain at the renamed Sports Direct Arena as Pardew aims to bring about more stability. A manager whose ambition has long been evident now intends to keep Newcastle in the league's upper reaches.

How he does so, especially given the added complication of European football this season, is intriguing.

"It is very difficult to improve upon the starting 11 we had last season," Pardew said.

It is particularly difficult within Newcastle's economic model. The most expensive member of the current team, Papiss Demba Cisse, cost £9 million (Dh53.6m). Manchester United have paid twice as much for men who are only likely to be substitutes today.

Without huge funds, Newcastle's bargain hunting is producing a different dividend after the side was transformed in the space of two seasons.

"I think this team is looking a lot stronger than last year because of the depth," Pardew said.

The arrivals of Vurnon Anita, Gael Bigirmana and Romain Amalfitano, coupled with the development of James Tavernier, Haris Vuckic and Shane Ferguson, provide options.

Yet their principal advantage rests with in the starting 11. It is there, despite only having the funds of a mid-table team, that they have recruited players who would command a place in the team at several richer clubs.

Cheik Tiote is a case in point. Manchester United's last trip to Tyneside, for January's 3-0 defeat, was notable for the destructive dynamism of the Ivorian. Whereas Ferguson has favoured ageing passers in midfield, Newcastle have an athletic edge. Tiote against Paul Scholes could be a clash of the physical against the technical.

Demba Ba was another to execute a demolition job in January. A player who deals in feast and famine in front of goal is back in form, with five in three games. Newcastle were unashamedly direct nine months ago, a policy that could serve them well.

Ferguson's men struggled against pace and power against Tottenham last week. Newcastle aim to ensure it becomes a recurring theme.

Yet a club proud of its position in England's north-east and a team with distinct French and African influences are accomplished chameleons. Teamwork propelled them forwards but they indulge the ultimate individual, Hatem Ben Arfa.

The Frenchman rarely defends and requires careful handling by Pardew but there are times when he seems to be staging a one-man goal-of-the-season contest.

Something Ferguson realised long ago is that talent is not democratic. He has made allowances for match-winners, whether Eric Cantona or Cristiano Ronaldo, and ruled with an iron fist where lesser players are concerned. It is a difficult balancing act of a man who can be both diplomat and dictator.

If Pardew is still ruling on Tyneside in 2020, he will have perfected it, too.


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