After four tumultuous years in charge at St James’ Park, Alan Pardew was yesterday confirmed as the new manager of Crystal Palace and has a fight on his hands to keep his new employers in English football’s top flight.
Although Newcastle have ambitions of European qualification, with a top-half finish a bare minimum while Palace toil in the relegation dogfight, the 53-year-old’s decision to move south makes sense.
Pardew has a clear affinity with the Selhurst Park club having served it as a player for four years, in which time he featured in a Palace side that got promoted and reached the FA Cup final; the retired midfielder scored the winning goal to defeat Liverpool in the semi-finals.
This bond between club and manager was clearly not present during his days in the North East, with Newcastle fans never taking to Pardew – even in the successful 2011-12 campaign where the side finished fifth.
Given the sheer consistency of ‘Pardew Out’ banners at St James’ in recent times and the vitriol flung in his direction from the club’s fans, a change will be as good as a rest for the former West Ham and Charlton boss.
Pardew will hope to receive a contrasting reception from the notoriously loyal Palace fans, who will be quick to see their new boss as someone who has taken a leap of faith to join the club and who is ‘one of their own’ so to speak.
From a purely footballing perspective, the Wimbledon-born coach has a job on his hands to keep Palace in the top flight.
At the time of writing the London club sit in the bottom three with only three wins from 20 games and will battle the likes of Leicester, Burnley, West Brom and QPR to avoid demotion to The Championship.
Palace chairman Steve Parish will hope for a similar reaction from the playing squad as the introduction of a new manager last season invoked, with the Eagles in desperate need of wins.
Tony Pulis defied the odds last term to keep a doomed-looking Palace side in the Premier League and Pardew has little time to waste if he is to replicate the feat.
Although the new manager will look to bring a new face or two to Selhurst Park during the transfer window this month, there is still reason to believe that he has inherited a squad good enough to compete in the top tier.
In attack the likes of Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon have shown that they have the attributes to excel in the English top flight, while captain Mile Jedinak, Joe Ledley and James McArthur give the side bite and no shortage of effort from the centre of the park. The squad does lack a proven goalscorer at the top level, however.
For Pardew to succeed this term at Palace he needs to achieve two things; shore up a defence that has conceded too many goals since the campaign started in August and get the best out a number of exciting young players at the club.
In Scott Dann and Brede Hangeland the London outfit have seasoned professionals who can inspire the team; it will be a matter of getting the backline working as a cohesive unit that can change Palace’s fortunes.
The likes of Wilfried Zaha and Dwight Gayle are exceptional talents that could well be the difference for Palace but this season they have either been mismanaged or not given enough of a chance to contribute to the collective cause.
But, where does Pardew’s exit leave Newcastle?
Following the afore-mentioned fifth-placed finish in 2011-12, where the North East club overachieved, expectations on Tyneside have been raised.
Although the side’s form in the second half of last season and at times this term has been terrible, the Newcastle fans cannot accuse Pardew of lacking determination or staying power.
The problem it seems for Pardew and whoever is named as his successor is a club owner who fails to deliver the level of support equivalent to other teams in the Premier League.
During the now-Palace manager’s time on Tyneside, the club’s net spend was virtually zero, with expenditure on new players cancelled out by the sales of others.
Without major investment to bolster the playing squad, how Newcastle are expected to consistently challenge for the top six remains to be seen.
Early reports indicate that a foreign manager will replace Pardew; whoever is hired will be taking on something of a poisoned chalice given Mike Ashley’s personality and control over the club and the expectation of the fans.
Newcastle, currently in tenth place, need to appoint the right man to help the club and its passionate fans prosper; the key problem is that Ashley’s right man more-than-likely will be the antithesis of what the supporters desire.
The feeling that Pardew was bullied by Ashley during his time in the North East remains, whereas Newcastle need an ambitious, confident manager who can bring new ideas to the club and be backed in-kind financially.
The Newcastle fans had every right to express their distaste in the times of underachievement over the last four years, but their frustrations should have been directed at Ashley rather than Pardew; the Joe Kinnear fiasco a key example of the club owner’s ineptitude.
For Pardew, from a purely neutral perspective, it would be nice to see a much-maligned figure succeed at Crystal Palace and the Selhurst Park fans to give him the kudos that he was never likely to achieve at Newcastle.