This Saturday will see Alan Pardew return to St James’ Park for the first time since his acrimonious exit from the club in December, 2015 and, despite the Magpies’ perilous league position, few fans will be sad to see the current Palace manager in the opposition dugout instead of the home one.
Contrary to what many popular media outlets would have the general public believe, Pardew was the most divisive manager in Newcastle United’s recent history, and his progressively shoddy stint as United boss should have been brought to an end by the club’s dithering hierarchy long before he decided to up sticks on his own account and leave for a fresh start (and double salary) with his former club Crystal Palace.
The Magpies’ shock fifth placed finish during the 2011/12 season was the undisputed high point of his four year spell on Tyneside, and for that he deserves credit. However, the real litmus test for top flight bosses is how they respond when the chips are down and how they find solutions to setbacks within seasons and games – in this department, Pardew was routinely found wanting.
The fact that the 54-year-old’s increasingly noxious tenure ended with a 3-2 victory over Everton following four consecutive defeats swayed many casual supporters towards the ‘he did a great job’ camp, however, ardent Newcastle fans, who watched the club drastically regress in terms of performances and results during the latter years of the conceited head coach’s stewardship, were not hoodwinked by a flurry of decent results amongst over 18 months of rapid degeneration.
Pardew’s inherently smug demeanour was clear for all to see whenever the club’s form picked up; as he gleefully lapped up any shred of credit that came his way rather than praising the team for their commendable efforts. However, when things went the other way, he waived any form of responsibility and refused to acknowledge his own glaring shortcomings, provoking the ire of a growingly disillusioned fan base.
He was incapable of changing a game with his substitutions, he took months to shake the team out of any of their many protracted ruts, and, as the side’s leader, he struggled to motivate and maximise the potential of one of Newcastle’s most gifted squads since the turn of the millennium.
Whether it was his lack of culpability for the club’s poor results, his dearth of respect for the club’s notoriously staunch fan base, his disdain for the local media, his propensity to attach blame to anyone other than himself, or his lack of genuine contrition following any one of his many shameful touchline misdemeanours, Alan Pardew’s philosophy, mindset and beliefs were not fundamentally compatible with Newcastle United on any basic level.
Barbs and sly digs from those close to the former West Ham boss have constantly been aimed towards Tyneside since his departure from St James’ Park over 12 months ago, however, his trusty band of acolytes were noticeably hushed as a wretched run of form recently saw Palace nosedive towards the drop zone; as Eagles’ fans had their first taste of the now infamous ‘Pardew Plummet’ in all its glory.
The general ill feeling towards Pardew has not subsided in the time that has passed since his exit, and the Englishman is sure to receive a hostile reception from large sections of the home crowd upon his return to St James’ Park this weekend, however, Saturday is all about Newcastle United and their battle for Premier League survival and we must not allow it to become the Alan Pardew show.
Once the first whistle blows his return will pale into insignificance and the Toon Army will be in full voice; backing the side to the hilt and creating the type of raucous atmosphere that can propel Rafael Benitez’s rejuvenated side towards a crucial victory – a win that would taste all the sweeter coming against a man who pulled many bricks from Newcastle’s teetering jenga tower.
What type of reception do you expect Alan Pardew to receive on Saturday? Get in touch and let us know via our Twitter account @NUFC360