On 30 June 2020, the eight-year deal that Alan Pardew signed as Newcastle United manager in September 2012 finally expired. It’s a significant milestone, if only because it means the Premier League’s oddest managerial contract can be banished to the past. Pardew was long gone before his contract expired, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, but let’s look back at this gargantuan deal one last time before we collectively forget that it happened.
Pardew replaced Chris Hughton at the helm in December 2010 and steered Newcastle to 12th place. It was his first full season where Pardew truly shone, taking Newcastle to a 5th-place finish and to European football. Pardew claimed the Premier League Manager of the Season award, so perhaps it was a prudent move to tie him down to a long contract to ward off suitors. While the Newcastle squad was brimming with talent (Yohan Cabaye, Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba), Pardew faced a lot of work to prove that the 5th-placed finish wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
Spoiler: it was.
The talk of the Toon
Even Pardew, a man not renowned for his lack of self-confidence, was taken aback by Mike Ashley’s extravagant show of faith in his manager. Looking back on quotes in The Guardian is informative, with Newcastle’s managing director Derek Llambias comparing Pardew’s contract to the dynasty building of Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. The 42 added clarification to their news headline on the contract by confirming that ‘this is not a joke’ in brackets – not the most encouraging sign that the Newcastle board had done a completely normal thing.
As for NUFC Blog reactions at the time, Pardew’s deal was a “staggering” move that threatened to take the edge of the manager’s performance, even if his prior work had been good. Sportskeeda called the move ‘hugely surprising’, particularly given that the average tenure of Premier League managers up to that point was 701 days.
There may be some consolation in the fact that Pardew made it beyond that average spell of just under two years, as he didn’t become Crystal Palace boss until January 2015. Pardew had lost the magic that made him Manager of the Year by this time, Newcastle collapsing miserably in the 2013/14 season by losing 15 out of 21 competitive fixtures. It was a grim year, but at least Newcastle hadn’t opened the doors to Netflix cameras in the same manner as a certain struggling side.
The stats for Newcastle’s Premier League performances in the seasons following that fifth-placed finish make for grim reading, with Pardew’s side drawing blanks in 33 out of 95 matches and producing a goal difference of -46. That ranked Newcastle as one of the league’s worst sides, so it is not surprising that Pardew sought a fresh start in pastures (or should that be Palaces) new.
What happened next?
John Carver, despite being the best coach in the league, and Steve McClaren took Newcastle on a downward slump which ended in the Championship, before Rafa Benitez reinvigorated the Magpies and brought them back to the top flight. Benitez consolidated Newcastle’s position in the Premier League, a job that Steve Bruce has continued admirably.
While Bruce is unlikely to take Newcastle up to 5th, the gulf between the league’s richest and the rest has grown wider since 2012. As of June 30, there are seven matches left to play in the 2019/20 season, but Newcastle aren’t even an option in the Betway markets for Premier League relegation. That Newcastle aren’t in the relegation picture is testament to the quality of Bruce’s management, especially considering that established sides like Bournemouth and West Ham have found themselves among the contenders for the drop.
While Pardew offered more than mid-table safety in his time in Newcastle, his managerial career has fizzled out since. An FA Cup final defeat in 2016 was Pardew’s Palace pinnacle, although that was a calendar year in which Palace won just 6 out of 36 league matches. Pardew managed four months at West Bromwich Albion, but eight successive defeats cost him his job in April 2018.
Pardew dabbled with punditry between management jobs, making a few appearances on Monday Night Football in a role that suited the boss. He then swooped in this season at ADO Den Haag in the Dutch top flight to win one of eight league games. The switch to the Eredivisie relegation dogfight is surely the weirdest thing in football to happen to Pardew since that eight-year deal was dangled in his face.
While the eight-year deal was always more of a symbolic gesture than a carefully-orchestrated plan, it didn’t prove to be a particularly effective ploy on or off the field. However, the important thing is that it didn’t stop Newcastle and Pardew from parting ways when the time was right. It is fitting that the deal expires at a time where Newcastle are looking at breaking into the upper reaches of the Premier League table once more.