It’s been just 16 months since Alan Pardew walked into that St James’ Park hotseat, and what a 16 months it has been!
A lot of people will remember that his appearance at United following the dismissal of the popular Chris Hughton was hardly greeted warmly. In fact some people still hold that particular viewpoint, which is staggering really when you look at the Premier League table.
Naturally a win in his opening game helped to ease the tension. A 3-1 victory over Liverpool was just the medicine the Toon Army needed to avoid one of those downward spirals of our own making and eased any unrest that was simmering beneath the surface, at least temporarily anyway.
Sales of players like Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique didn’t help either. With suspicion rife a lot of fans were left wondering just what the motives of the former Reading, West Ham, Charlton and Southampton manager were. Was he here to assist Mike Ashley more than anything else?
Fast forward to the present day and what do we have? A team guaranteed to be in Europe with the possibility of even making the Champions League. A best league finish since the days of Sir Bobby Robson and a team that is starting to show real attacking intent and flair.
It’s folly to suggest that every bit of success has been a tactical masterstroke. There are times when we have been lucky and times that we have been awful, which I’ll point out now is no different to what any other Premier League team goes through during the course of the season.
There are also times that we’ve been sublime and have pulled of tactical masterstrokes. I remember Blackburn away where we were being outplayed. A quick shuffle of the pack for the second half and we ended up being comfortable winners. Stoke away was another example, especially Danny Simpson and his towel routine which is the kind of fine detail that can influence a game – notice the reaction from the Stoke players and manager, who collectively were rather irate about it all.
The key thing for me though in the success story so far that has been Alan Pardew’s appointment, has been the motivational aspect of his tenure. Quite simply it’s been exceptional. It takes more than whispering “well done” in the ear of a player to make them feel happy. All you have to do is look towards the squad players, like James Perch and see the improvement in those to see that motivation does work.
He’s quick to praise players and will shoulder the blame when needed. A look back at the 5-0 loss at Tottenham will confirm that. Rather than condemn the players for basic defensive errors he instead came out and said that the blame should be laid at his own door, thus lifting any real pressure off of the shoulders of the players.
It’s that kind of thing that has served us well so far this season and has given the players the belief to perform so well. It helps that we have quality players of course, but as we’ve seen first hand, just because we have quality players it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will play like a quality team.
That is down to the manager!