As his side prepare for their first match since the 3-0 loss to Sunderland, Vincent Ralph turns the spotlight on Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.
In the last few weeks, my spotlight has fallen on managers. But none have been under the glare quite like Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew.
Following his side’s humiliation at the hands of Sunderland last weekend, the Magpies go into today’s match against West Brom knowing a win would give them more than just three points.
In what is the tightest of relegation battles, Pardew knows that victory at The Hawthorns would secure his team’s top flight status; as well as beginning the slow process of exorcising the embarrassment of the Di Canio demolition.
Why Newcastle are in their current predicament is something of a mystery, at least when you consider the players are predominantly those who last season were hailed as the Premier League’s surprise package.
Having inspired a 5th-place finish and a return to European competition in their last campaign, Pardew won both the Premier League and the League Managers’ Association Manager of the Year award. And no one was surprised.
And yet, when he was later given an eight-year contract by the club…well, let’s just say some of those eyebrows still haven’t found their way back to their natural position.
It is easy to blame job security on the side’s current woes. Some say Pardew has nothing to fight for having been gifted so much for so long.
Others say Newcastle overachieved last season, which doesn’t quite ring true, at least for this neutral.
The truth seems to be a found somewhere in the tombola of possibilities every football fan is well aware of.
Injury has played a huge part in United’s last two seasons: last year in its almost complete absence and this year in its overfamiliarity.
The Everton-effect should also be considered, with Pardew’s side echoing the Toffees in the early years of David Moyes: a season of highs followed by a season of lows, with no middle ground.
Moyes rode out such inconsistency. And it will be hoped by the St James’ Park hierarchy that Pardew can do the same.
For now he just needs to get his team winning again, a task made more difficult by the fact they have won just a single away match all season.
Newcastle are not at serious risk of relegation, no matter what the doom-mongers prophesised in the aftermath of the Tyne-Wear derby.
But the spotlight will be on Pardew both today and in the coming months.
He needs to prepare his side for a vastly improved campaign next year. He would do well by starting early…preferably this afternoon.
How do you feel Pardew has performed this season? And what does the future hold both for the manager and the Magpies?
image: © mickyb59