The English Football Association tends to avoid hiring brilliant but irascible men to manage England's football team. That will come back to bite Alan Pardew, writes Richard Jolly.
Anger management issues could cost Alan Pardew shot at England job
The question was posed a few minutes before kick-off: was the mid-table clash between Hull City and Newcastle United an audition to prove Roy Hodgson’s eventual replacement as England manager?
After all, Steve Bruce and Alan Pardew are both a generation younger than the 66 year old. With the exception of rookies Tim Sherwood and Garry Monk and the eternally unfashionable Sam Allardyce, they are the only English managers in the Premier League.
Both look logical candidates for a shortlist of possible successors.
By the time the final whistle blew at the KC Stadium, there were rather more pressing issues. Whatever Pardew’s suitability to manage his country, could he survive as Newcastle manager? The answer, to the surprise of many, seems to be, yes.
There was a school of thought that owner Mike Ashley was looking for an excuse to sack him. Headbutting Hull midfielder David Meyler certainly could have constituted the sort of gross misconduct that would precipitate such a move.
Newcastle had been brought into disrepute, their name sullied but, continuing the unpredictability that has been a theme of Ashley’s reign, the billionaire moved to shore up Pardew’s position by fining him £100,000 (Dh610,000) and issuing him with a formal warning. It was a pre-emptive strike.
Yet it remains a career-defining incident.
Yesterday, the English Football Association charged Pardew with improper conduct, designating the alleged offence as “non-standard” meaning there is no real precedent and that it cannot be treated in the same way as other more common disciplinary matters. as is yet to take action and a possible punishment.
Any lengthy ban would seriously affect Pardew’s ability to do his job, potentially bringing Newcastle’s loyalty into question.
The other, long-term implication is that this makes Pardew far less employable. It is not merely his eight-year contract that means he and Newcastle, initially such an odd match, may be stuck together.
It is inconceivable that Pardew, the last Englishman to win the League Managers’ Association’s Manager of the Year Award, will go on to lead his country.
The FA has a famous aversion to loose cannons. It had ignored the outspoken Brian Clough long before he punched fans who had invaded the pitch. More recently, Harry Redknapp, fresh from beating a tax evasion charge in court, was overlooked despite being the people’s choice to succeed Fabio Capello.
It seemed Hodgson suited the governing body rather better. He brings a dignity to the office that Pardew – who had to apologise earlier this year for verbally abusing Manuel Pellegrini – would not.
Given the premium placed on winning, football can seem a moral vacuum. During his Aberdeen days, Sir Alex Ferguson was given a touchline ban that lasted for much of 1979. It did not stop Sir Bobby Charlton from headhunting him to manage Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho poked Tito Villanova in the eye, remained as Real Madrid manager and was then reappointed by Chelsea.
Yet it is a mistake to judge the majority by Ferguson and Mourinho’s standards. They are exceptions, men whose records were so outstanding that plenty were prepared to overlook their transgressions.
Moreover, at least some of their more outrageous statements were made when they were comparatively calm. They were diversionary tactics, psychological ploys, schemes to galvanise their players or wind up rivals. They often succeeded.
What was stunning on Saturday was Pardew’s needless and total loss of control. This was an unprovoked attack. How, many wonder, can he discipline his players when he cannot set the appropriate example to them?
Pardew’s answer, he suggested, was to remove himself from the touchline – although the FA is likely to take the choice from him by banning him – but there is clearly a deeper problem.
This is about anger management, not football management.
Pardew is skilled at the latter. He struggles at the former and the Premier League’s pressures can bring out the worst in many people. The solution may not just involve a seat in the stands, but one in a psychiatrist’s chair.
The peaks and troughs of Pardew’s career appear proof of his volatility.
He took promoted West Ham United to the top half of the Premier League and the FA Cup final in 2006 and was sacked seven months later with them in the relegation zone. He steered Newcastle to a surprise fifth-place finish in 2012 and flirted with relegation the following season.
This season has been a year of extremes, with winning runs suddenly giving way to sequences of defeats. It points to a character who has particular difficulty in treating those twin impostors, triumph and disaster, the same.
While his Hull counterpart Bruce was admirably magnanimous on Saturday, Pardew certainly appears friendless outside St James’ Park at present.
It was notable how some former players and managers who rarely venture an outspoken opinion called for his sacking. He is a brash character who has rubbed too many up the wrong way. Yet his record also shows a capacity to overachieve that is rare among English managers. There are few with his tactical nous and just as few with his history of misdemeanours.
The latest is the most serious, the sort of offence that, if committed elsewhere, could result in criminal charges. Instead, Pardew will be judged by the men who can never appoint him: the English Football Association.
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