It was farcical, comical and shocking all at the same time. Football has now reached new levels of craziness. On Saturday, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew headbutted Hull’s David Meyler during his sides 4-1 win.
It was a scene that wouldn’t look out of place on a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) programme which is rather ironic, considering the owner of WWE has been rumoured to have an interest in buying the club. Maybe Pardew’s latest exploit is an audition for next month’s Wrestlemania.
It was outrageous. It has now strengthened an unwanted reputation for Pardew, who has a history of touchline violence. If he isn’t shoving match officials, he’s fighting with other managers. If he isn’t caught calling Man City boss Manuel Pellegrini a “C**t”, he’s deliberately celebrating goals in front of the opposition in a provocative manner. His behaviour is distasteful.
However, Pardew is very media savvy. He convinces us that he is sorry, that it won’t happen again and that he is genuinely ashamed of his actions. Flashing his deliberate and charming smile into the camera won’t work this time. He has gone too far.
After being barged out of the way by a rushing Meyler, he grabbed him and headbutted him. It wasn’t as violent as it sounds. Zinidine Zidane won’t have any concerns that his full blooded headbutt on Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final has been upstaged. It was a gentle clash of heads but the intent from Pardew was there. He made the movements. What he did was obvious.
So far, Pardew has been slapped with a hefty £100,000 fine and given a formal warning by Newcastle. An FA charge will be imminent and a lengthy touchline ban will follow.
The FA aren’t blameless here. They haven’t punished his previous actions severely enough and have been too soft. They handed him a two game ban for shoving a match official last season. Pardew should have been taught there and then that his behaviour is unacceptable. A lengthy ban would have guaranteed this wouldn’t have happened.
Still though, Newcastle won’t get rid of him. After handing Pardew an incredible eight year contract last season this was an opportunity to terminate it without having to pay compensation. The club’s reputation has been stained due its links with his despicable behaviour and no one would blame them for giving him his p45.
This is just the latest in a line of unpleasant headlines coming out of Newcastle. After detailing his previous exploits Pardew is, surprisingly, not always the cause. The fans and the club are at civil war, all caused by the owner, Mike Ashley.
Ashley is loathed on Tyneside for his treatment of the club. Some of the decisions he has made are mad. Since his appointment in 2010 Pardew has been the glue that holds it all together. His successful management of the team has kept the supporters happy enough so that things haven’t boiled over. It might be the right decision following this incident, but Ashley won’t sack Pardew. He knows he needs him, while he also knows he is a damn good manager.
In his three years on Tyneside, Pardew has performed minor miracles. After getting sacked from Southampton, who were two divisions below, he was a surprise appointment by Ashley. The owner had just ruthlessly sacked Chris Hughton, who months earlier had guided Newcastle to promotion. The atmosphere at St James’s Park was negative. Pardew calmed the situation and kept them up.
The next season he dragged them to an outstanding 5th place, their highest finish in eight years, as they finished above Chelsea and Liverpool. The players he signed were talented and cheap and the brand of football was exciting.
Still, there is, and always has been, a poisonous atmosphere that exists between the fans and the owner. Full credit must go to Pardew for doing as well as he has in those circumstances. Most managers would have caved where Pardew has thrived.
However, this latest incident may have more serious ramifications then his club prospects. English football does not boast many highly regarded English managers, and with the painful tenure of Fabio Capello still fresh in the mind, it is highly likely that the next England manager will be English.
Pardew would have been looked at favourably for the future. He has proven himself to be an outstanding man-manager and an alert tactician. His tenure at Newcastle has proven that he can flourish under extreme pressure. These are all traits an England manager needs.
Pardew’s competition is very slim. There are only four other English managers currently in the Premier League and two of those aren’t expected to be there next season. If the FA want an Englishman there doesn’t seem many alternatives to Pardew.
Current England boss Roy Hodgson isn’t going anywhere soon, unless this summer’s World Cup proves to be another humiliation, but Pardew will be high up on the list of eventual replacements. He ticks all the boxes, if he wasn’t such a hot headed idiot.
However, timing is everything in football. Currently it seems unfeasible to suggest Pardew could have the biggest job in English sport. But if he grabs the lifeline that seems to have been given him and has a few years of exemplary behaviour, he may just be in with a chance. He has the talent but, for now, clearly not the temperament. For that view to change, so does he.
From here Pardew needs to, finally, be a man of his word. He said he will be “Sitting down from now on” and his dug out appearances will become more sporadic. Sitting in the stands for the rest of the season will help that. Next season he can begin to rebuild his broken reputation.
Football exists in the present. Today, his career at Newcastle is uncertain. In two years, an England career could still beckon.