Pardew’s Penance

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.

 

 

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  1. I was a bit unsure about Gayle, having only really watched him being used sparingly at Palace, and I also took about bit of about sideways glance at the fee we paid for him…but my word, he’s a fantastic player, and he has some real genuine attributes in him as a footballer.

    It doesn’t surprise me though, as he is definitely not a ‘Pardew player’, and is probably the reason that Pardew has become known as a bit of a streak manager, as there is never a plan b.

  2. Just for the record, as a Toon fan: wanting Pardew out had nothing to do with him being a cockney, or part of a “cockney takeover” (which had long since come to pass) –

    we didn’t want him in the first place, to replace Chris Hughton (born Stratford), who was widely seen as a man of honour that was doing a very decent job, having brought us up from the championship at a canter and with us sitting mid-table at the time of his sacking (11th, I think?).

    Pardew was hounded out for being Ashley’s puppet, pure and simple – he was dishonest from day one, putting on a smug smile and ‘trust me’ at the end of every sentence in order to put a little public relations sheen on the club’s business model/crippling lack of ambition (and the limit of his own). Like an increasingly desperate used-car salesman. He was entirely complicit in this model, or else he could/should have left at any time.

    That he was ‘plucked’ from being freshly sacked at league one Southampton says it all – he was always in debt to Ashley for saving his career, giving him the biggest job he would ever get (which is saying nothing about Palace – great club, love Selhurst and massive respect to the Holmesdale – only that a functioning Newcastle is/was technically a bigger job; he’s a very, very lucky man to have been employed by both). Was similar with McLaren.

    Pardew’s results were, apart from one season, fairly dire (record-breakingly so, through multiple periods); the style of play and a plan b non-existent; his touchline demeanour terrible – the fact that he wasn’t sacked for headbutting an opposition player seemed to reinforce that he was in fact a stooge – why else to keep him on, at that late and already unpopular stage, and for much longer?

    And he never, ever took blame for anything going wrong – he would prefer to throw a player/anyone/anything under the bus than accept his own faults, and that kind of self-serving arrogance was deeply unpopular.

    So please stop saying that it has anything to do with geography, and not instead that it was a lack of honour and integrity that was there for all to see.

    Again, big respect to Palace, and thanks for Gayle – wouldn’t mind Benteke when you’re done with him ; )

    1. Thank you for reading the article and responding!

      To try to summarise the Ashley/Pardew era in a couple of paragraphs is a fool’s errand.

      I remember the days of Sir John Hall & Kevin Keegan, the perfect marriage of owners, the manager, the team and the supporters. At least with Rafa now and some decent signings (not just Gayle) you get some of that link back and I’m sure Newcastle will be back in the Premiership next season.

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