Palace talks a sign Alan Pardew is weary of Newcastle soap opera
It’s not very often a manager holds talks with a team in the same division that is eight places and 10 points worse off than his current club, but Alan Pardew has proved once again to be an exception to the rule.
Tied down to an ironclad contract at Newcastle United, which still has some five-and-a-half years to run, only a sacking by Magpies owner Mike Ashley or another side coming in for him can bring an end to what has been Tyneside turmoil for Pardew.
Crystal Palace, 6/4 third-favourites with Coral to be relegated, are trying the latter option, with compensation reportedly agreed and talks ongoing. Quitting St James’ Park has never been an option for Pardew, because he would miss out on what is thought to be lucrative severance pay.
With the market on who will be next Eagles boss suspended, the fact that negotiations are taking place between Palace and Pardew is revealing on its own. At first glance, there is a wealth of difference between being in charge of a side where he has been in place for four years and is even-money to steer Newcastle to a top 10 finish, and an emotional return to a former club from his playing days where Pardew will have to prepare for a relegation battle.
Looking at things logically and objectively, taking out his ties to Selhurst Park, this mooted move for the Magpies manager makes no sense. While the Premier League table doesn’t lie, those cold stats ignore the roller-coaster ride that coaching Newcastle has become.
Fan campaigns to oust Pardew, amounting to the website ‘sackpardew.com’ with accompanying plaques brandished by disgruntled Toon Army members at games, is just one shocking site throughout the whole sorry affair that has been his last 18 months in charge.
Are Geordies so tribal and fickle that they cannot support their team because one of their own is not is in the dugout? ‘What if’ questions are always a can of worms, but would this situation have arisen if Sunderland had not snatched a late winner in the Tyne-Wear derby the weekend before Christmas?
These wafer-thin margins are what Pardew has had to put up with from Newcastle fans. While much-maligned owner Mike Ashley dabbles in increasing his stake at stricken Scottish giants Rangers (showing the ironic loyalty of a Magpie), it’s the manager who takes the rap.
Newcastle natives are showing an ignorance of reality, a truth that hurts and is hard to admit. Look at Ashley’s business model; bringing in foreign players and selling the ones who perform for a profit. Rinse and repeat. Only it doesn’t always work.
Again, asking ‘what if’ poses the problem of we’ll never know for sure, but suppose Pardew could still field Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Debuchy and Loic Remy? Perhaps fighting against the tide of a relegation battle will not be too dissimilar from being expected to deliver the same performances when the best and brighest names have been cashed in on.
It is hard not to admire the largely dignified approach Pardew has taken to the circus surrounding him during his four years in the Magpies hotseat. That infamous headbutt on David Meyler was a brief lapse, and one which could easily have resulted in his dismissal for gross misconduct.
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, to borrow from Shakespeare, can only be blocked for so long by a man. In talking to Palace about returning to London, it appears to be a clear sign that Pardew has tired of his spell on the Geordie Shore.
His Toon tenure has had more twists and turns than that scripted reality show. Yet it is not the protagonist that has manufactured most of the drama, rather Pardew’s public and the people above him.
At least he is respected by the no less vocal or passionate Palace support. Pardew played a huge part in the Eagles’ greatest ever achievement; reaching the 1990 FA Cup final after scoring in the semis.
That history notwithstanding, Pardew will want assurances about money to spend on improving Palace’s squad in the January transfer window. Paying compensation for his services will effect that budget slightly, but it’s put up or shut up from Eagles co-chairman Steve Parish.
Who will take on what seems to be the thankless task of managing Newcastle is another issue entirely. Palace are odds-on at 1/2 to stay up, and it looks like Pardew will have a big part to play in that if it comes to pass.