What’s taking up the Toon Army’s time?


What do they say about waiting for buses?

We’d had months of waiting for the first managerial casualty in the Premier League, when the post-Christmas blues suddenly struck two struggling clubs almost at once.

It was just hours after Neil Warnock was sacked by Crystal Palace, that Alan Irvine was removed from the helm at West Brom, in what suddenly became a rather frantic festive period.

And almost as soon as Warnock had packed up his things, (the morning after he had spoken about already being in negotiations with his January transfer window targets), the more keen-eyed members of the media turned their attention to a former Palace player currently in residence at a club not too far from the banks of the Bailey Peninsula in Durham itself, and

Alan Pardew

whom had been going about his business (almost) quietly, far away from the turmoil of South London, for a good four years.

On December 28th, the day after Warnock’s muffled exit, Alan Pardew rather blatantly threw his hat into the ring of the club where he had made his name, as he refused to fulfill his media duties after his 3-2 home win against Everton.

The Newcastle press officer arrived to tell gathered journalists that his assistant manager, and full-time fervent Geordie, John Carver, would be facing the post match press conference instead.

Pardew was literally pressing the ‘Send Assistant Manager’ button.

And if the former Crystal Palace man was attempting to lead some Football Manager mind games, then his assistant was in on it too. Indeed, Carver had obviously been told to take the ‘No Comment’ option at every opportunity.

And Pardew’s no-show instantly set minds racing and hearts fluttering (certainly in South London, and perhaps on Tyneside too), as expectation grew that the 53 year-old would be making a heroic return to the club for whom he made 128 appearances some 15 years ago.

Meanwhile, after West Brom sacked Alan Irvine on the 30th, they had brought in proven survival specialist Tony Pulis by New Year’s Day. Newcastle were still trying to flog Pardew for all that he was worth.

Once a fee was finally settled, Pardew was released to what is arguably his spiritual home on January 3rd. Whilst his departure would have taken the Newcastle hierarchy by more surprise than the departure of Alan Irvine at West Brom, it appears somewhat odd that Ashley & Co then let Carver keep his position for 4 games, without naming him as Pardew’s permanent successor.

Various names have been mooted, but there still seems to be little word getting out of St James’ with any substance.

And if any word is getting out, Newcastle appear determined to ensure that it does not spiral out of control – perhaps like word of Pardew’s departure spiraled onto social media just minutes after his win against Everton, in what was his last game at the club.

It has happened that, in the last week, Newcastle have moved to reduce the number of media outlets allowed at pre and post match press conferences to the legal minimum, cutting agencies and non-rights holders from the guest list.

So it would appear that the gears have been set in motion for an inevitable arrival.

But that does not mean that that arrival is imminent. Indeed, it is expected in some sections that Carver will be allowed to retain his job until the January window closes, so that those above him can the more easily control the size of the squad without the interference of a new manager.

Then, come February, a new boss will be revealed as the man who has no choice but to work with an Ashley-tailored squad for the rest of this season. A head coach who, like Pardew, will be willing to stay subordinate to the powers-that-be.

Perhaps men like that are becoming increasingly hard to find in modern-day football.

And whilst mid-table mediocrity will be acceptable to the ruthlessly shrewd on the Newcastle board, the fans may start to realise that Pardew’s departure may not make for as much change as they might have wanted to see.

Photograph: wikipedia

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