Newcastle United have confirmed Alan Pardew will remain at the club next season, so now is the time to prove they back their manager.
The 52-year-old was a surprise choice to succeed the sacked Chris Hughton in the St James Park hotseat in December 2010, less than four months after being axed by League One Southampton. Previous to this, he had left Charlton Athletic by mutual consent, been sacked by West Ham United, and left his first managerial post at Reading.
Upon the dismissal of Hughton, Sky Sports reported that a poll of 40,000 supporters, only 5.5% had backed Pardew to fill his shoes. Despite this he was given a lengthy five-and-a-half year contract, and after he led them to a European finish in his first full season in charge, this deal was ripped up and replaced with a staggering eight-year agreement.
Since then, though, Newcastle have failed to recapture that form of 2011-12. Cracks began to show last season when they battled relegation for much of the campaign, only avoiding the drop by five points. And this term they started well but trailed off badly, with a sequence of 15 defeats from their final 21 matches in all competitions.
They did win the final St James Park Premier League match of the season, 3-0 against Cardiff City, yet this is likely to be remembered for 7,000 of the home support walking out in protest during the second half. Yet there have been no suggestions that early season ticket sales have been affected, with the club still one of the best supported in the land.
It could be argued that now it has been confirmed that the fans won’t get their way and Pardew will not be sacked, they must accept this and get behind him and the players next season. And while that may be reasonable, their manager is likely to win the supporters round if he is backed by Mike Ashley when the transfer window reopens.
For the past two transfer windows, Pardew has been restricted to bolstering his options with loan signings. Even when the club sold its best player in January – Yohan Cabaye – to Paris St Germain for a huge profit on the £4.5million they took him from Lille for in 2011, none of this was filtered down so their manager could sign a replacement.
Pardew also had to work alongside the hapless Joe Kinnear, who was appointed by Ashley last summer as director of football but has since been shown the door. The former Wimbledon boss was brought in to help oversee transfers, yet appeared to be clueless when remembering the names and facts of the current squad, and is also believed to have asked about the availability of a player who was already on the Newcastle roster.
It is now time for Ashley to place his trust in Pardew, establish a transfer budget, and let him get on with it. How much would be made available is unknown, but the manager should also be allowed to generate extra funds by selling some of his existing squad – but only on the basis that every penny of these sales will be added to his budget.
On the face of it, there doesn’t appear to be an awful lot wrong with some of the options Pardew already has. Tim Krul is one of the better goalkeepers in the division. Skipper Fabricio Coloccini, so important in the back four, has already stated he will remain at the club, and Davide Santon – still only 23-years-old – can’t be all that bad if he is being courted by Roma for their UEFA Champions League campaign.
Moussa Sissoko and Vurnon Anita look to be decent additions, and the speculation linking Cheick Tiote with a host of rival clubs seems to have died down in recent times. Unfortunately, the undoubtedly talented Hatem Ben Arfa appears to have stalled, but at least the club could command a good transfer fee for his sale.
Despite the above, there is no doubt that Pardew needs to add to his squad. Most significantly he needs at least two new strikers, as the chances of keeping top goalscorer Loic Remy on a permanent basis seem non-existent. And despite the presence of Krul and Coloccini, that back four needs working on (does it ever not?).
So there is still work for Pardew to do if he is to transform Newcastle into a side with genuine expectations of pushing for a place in Europe. But now he has been assured of his position, it is time for Ashley to support his manager.