This was the news I was dreading, this was the news I didn’t want to hear, however, sadly, yet unsurprisingly, this was the news I expected.
Twelve months ago it was all clear skies and plain sailing. This season, call it arrogance, laziness or shear bad map reading, but for the most part we’ve looked a rudderless vessel up against the elements, with oars out of sync flying left right and everywhere – had it not been for the grace of God (or Jose Boswinga) we were very much facing the abyss.
Where did it all go wrong?
Take your pick from a number of reasons – lack of summer spending, injuries, Europa League, tactics, the list goes on. For the majority of the fans though, the finger seems firmly pointed at the feet of our Master and Commander, Mr. Pardew, and to be fair it’s not hard to see why. Questionable tactics, unattractive football, endless excuses and rumours of player unrest have very much painted him as the fall guy for what has been a disastrous campaign.
And so, the last few days has seen a frenzy of activity on Tyneside with rumours of the impending season review taking place between Pardew and the board. For a few months there have been whispers that Ashley was rightly unhappy with the performances on the pitch, especially given his significant investment in January 2013. A host of coaching names have also been appearing social media sites, which only serve to wet the appetite of fans – managers with a pedigree for attacking flair, without a long ball in sight; capable of taking us back to the lofty heights of the league table and with CV’s to suggest that Newcastle United means business.
Given the nature of the ‘football’ we played this year, the allure of something better proved too great and I (like many) brought in to the prospect hook, line and sinker.
As it was, I’ve spent the best part of the last few days refreshing my Twitter feeds, scouring the blogs, and messaging the ‘ITK’ guys including the oracle known to many fans as Colin aka @cwarr07, for any shred of evidence that there might be some truth to the murmurings. And as I waited, and the longer it went on, the more I realised it was not to come. Unfortunately, being an English man and a Newcastle United supporter, this feeling of disappointment is something I’ve had to get used to.
It was the same every time I dared to believe at a major international tournament this might be our year, only for us to go out on penalties yet again. It was the same as a felt when the news broke that we had initially rejected Liverpool’s first offer for Andy Carroll, only for Ashley’s helicopter to be on standby, and ultimately, the same hope I carried when I heard Pardew was going into a boardroom meeting a few days ago, to be greeted with today’s news.
While the more pragmatic fans will likely welcome the news that the club is going down the sensible route of stability, and that Pardew deserves his second chance based on his first seasons achievements, I’d like to point out that most football fans aren’t largely pragmatic by nature. We’re passionate, irrational and yet incredibly fickle bunch who sing when we’re winning but moan twice as loud when we’re not.
Ultimately, we want to support a team that wins, playing glorious attacking end-to-end football. We don’t want to see the club invest in highly talented, skilful players, only to watch the ball either lumped up from the keeper to an isolated forward, or two to three passes between the centre backs and fullbacks only for it then to be again knocked long. We don’t want to see our football played like that.
We don’t want to watch our biggest rivals, knock five, six, or seven past us, only for us to have one shot on target and consider that a good return. We don’t want to be told that European nights only serve to deplete and hinder our squad and we don’t want to see world-class players stuck out on the wing. We don’t want to go one up and then sit back and concede two, but most of all (and I know this might sound brutal), we don’t want Alan Pardew anymore.
Now I don’t believe this is a bold, out of the box statement but it’s honestly how I believe most fans feel. Ashley has managed to assemble one of the finest orchestra’s ever seen and as a fan of over 20 years – we need the conductor to match.
His decision by all accounts to back Pardew will be a bitter pill for most fans to swallow, and considering his already fractious relationship, will likely only serve to alienate him and the rest of the supposed ‘cockney mafia’.
Ashley has taken a number of gambles during his time on Tyneside, some have worked, and an almost equal number haven’t. The decision to back Pardew may prove to be his biggest gamble yet and ultimately; I think it’s one gamble too far. I can’t help think back to Steve Bruce and how after the Sunderland game, he lost the fans that day and ultimately never recovered.
Unfortunately, I feel it is the same for Pardew – despite the backing of Ashley, this is merely a stay of execution and it is simply a case of when, not if.
Ultimately, the fans have been very dignified in what has been an incredibly testing and trying season. We’ve got behind the team, supported them and cheered them over the line. There were no chants, no bed sheets, no boycotting – even on the last game of the season when the pressure was off and we were promised a show, something to send us into the summer with a smile, and what did we get; one shot on target and more of the same slop we’ve been served up all year. Once the final whistle blew – it seems that performance was just one long-ball too far and quite rightly we wanted change.
The decision to stick with Pardew ultimately means we will likely go into the new season on the back foot, and I have a feeling this time around the fans might not be as kind and patient.
For a club that’s desperately trying to purse the dream of stability and ultimately putting distance between the Wild West days of Sir John Hall and Freddie Shepherd, these are very shaky grounds to be building them on.