There were no tears shed on either side when Alan Pardew left Newcastle United for Palace around Christmas 2014.
The Newcastle fans saw Pardew as part of an unwanted cockney takeover of the club, after Mike Ashley had bought the club from local businessmen back in 2007. The fans didn’t like the previous owners much either, after a number of unpleasant scandals, but that was soon forgotten.
Pardew has never been reluctant to step up and talk, and that suited Mike Ashley perfectly. As recent events at his Sports Direct empire have shown, Ashley had lots of reasons for staying anonymous in the background.
Pardew had stated many times that he is proud of his record at Newcastle, especially in the 2011/12 season when he led them to fifth place.
And Newcastle’s fortunes did not turn around after Pardew’s departure. They narrowly avoided relegation in 2015, but finished the job in 2016, with the embarrassment compounded by Sunderland’s survival.
Newcastle are now top of the Championship, and look well set, as they should be, for an immediate return to the Premier League. Their leading goalscorer is Dwight Gayle, formerly of this parish, who has scored ten goals already this season, and judging by match reports and highlights shows could have had twenty.
The £10million fee that they paid for Gayle looks like bargain, a smart use of the parachute payments for a player who looks too sharp for lower league defences.
The £10million fee was also a nice return for Palace on a player who never quite established himself as a first team regular, and who would have fallen further down the pecking order with the signing of Christian Benteke and with the side playing a style of football not really suited to his talents.
After a second successive defeat and the sight of Frazier Campbell, rather than Gayle, coming off the bench to chase late goals, is it time for a re-think on the Gayle decision?
Gayle’s greatest attribute is that he is a natural goalscorer. His instinctive positioning and the timing of his runs mean that he will always get chances, even if he doesn’t take all of those chances.
In playground parlance, Gayle is a goal-hanger, and that is not meant as an insult at all. Gary Lineker was a goal-hanger, before him in the 1970’s there was Gerd Miller and before that Jimmy Greaves, possibly the greatest finisher in English league football.
Goal-hangers are not renowned for their efforts in the air or for working hard on other aspects of their game. But they can walk off the pitch with two goals from two chances and very little else in terms of contribution.
And there is nothing wrong with that, when it works!
The last proper goal-hanger to succeed at Palace, I would argue, was Clinton Morrison. His game was based around playing off the final defender, occasionally not being caught offside, but being alert for any sort of chance in the box.
Andy Johnson was a less natural finisher but his pace and direct approach meant that he had plenty of chances. Dougie Freedman was a great finisher but his game was more than just goal scoring as he had the ability to create chances for others, especially AJ and Clinton, with his touch and awareness around the box.
It seems that goal-hangers are really a thing of the past in an era where forwards like Shinji Okazaki are running more than eleven kilometres in a game. Jermain Defoe, toiling away at Sunderland wondering if he can score against anyone other than Palace, may be the last of his kind for the time being.
And that might explain why Palace were happy to take the generous offer they received from Newcastle, a tidy profit on the undisclosed fee of roughly £4-6million that we paid for him.
But the image of Frazier Campbell reminds me that Gayle was definitely a better option.
After any defeat there always seems to be talk of a lack of a Plan B, and Gayle could have been at the apex of that plan, playing off the last defender in the same way that Clinton Morrison used to.
Gayle had that late chance in the Cup Final that he put wide but it showed that he is always on the look-out for chances and with Yohan Cabaye hopefully returning to form, a player who can run onto a short pass rather than wait to head in a cross has to be a viable alternative.
As it is, our loss is Newcastle’s gain, and the sale of Gayle to the Magpies could be the greatest thing Pardew ever did for that club.