As a few Newcastle United fans performed their feeble protest of walking out of St. James’ Park in the 69th minute last Saturday (1969 was the year the Magpies last won a major honour), one could be forgiven for thinking that it was their team who were getting relegated, not that day’s opponents, Cardiff City.
It’s obviously frustrating to have your reasonably sized club not win a major trophy for 45 years, but to involve Alan Pardew who has, for the most part, got the club rocking again since December 2010, seems pretty narrow thinking. It’s not as if he’s been the boss since 1969.
He hasn’t covered himself in glory this season with rubbing heads with opposing players, and referring to a fellow manager as an ancient piece of female genitalia, but all in all he has done a good job with what he’s got. It wasn’t long ago that he and his scouts, particularly Graham Carr, were receiving much praise for the gems they purchased – Yohan Cabaye and Yoan Gouffran to name but a few.
Yes, they’ve just come out of their worst sequence of results in 27 years, but it showed how good the team did earlier in the season that they still lie in ninth spot; a position that many will say is about their level at the moment (and historically, too – they have the ninth highest total of major honours won by an English club). The league table doesn’t lie, but it could be said that Manchester United’s ‘rightful place’ is not their current position of seventh considering they won the league by 11 points last year, and hadn’t finished outside the top three since 1991. However, it doesn't work like that.
Of course, we all want better and shouldn’t settle for second or ninth best, but you cope with the hand you’re dealt with. After a golden period – although not in terms of silverware – under Kevin Keegan from 1993 to 1997 the club went from relegation candidates and mid-table fodder during the next four seasons, to qualifying for the Champions League for the two thereafter then a fifth place finish in 2003-04.
When Keegan hauled a depleted Newcastle side from nearly being relegated to the third tier to title top-flight title contenders he had one of the biggest budgets to spend at the time. This was reflected in the results, as if often the case even if you do get the odd casualty like Queens Park Rangers. Pardew and Newcastle are not currently in this situation, so the supporters shouldn’t expect much more than what they’re getting at the moment unless things change in and around the club. Protest against owner Mike Ashley all you want, but Pardew has done well in the circumstances.
Pardew achieved a top five finish in only their second season back in the Premiership after relegation to the Championship in 2009, coming ahead of big spending Chelsea in the process. Whether Pardew was at fault the following season in not strengthening his squad in order to cope with four competitions of football is uncertain. Selling Cabaye so late in the January transfer window without a replacement also smacks of bad business. Again, whether that was down to Pardew, Ashley or both is unknown (I'd put a punt on the owner). But with many clubs around and below them spending more money and bringing in more players, not having as successful a season as the current elite was to be expected.
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