A great win for Newcastle at the weekend away at Cardiff seemingly left Alan Pardew like the rest of us puzzled by this latest edition of Black and Whites. “Are we really good or are we really bad? I’m not sure!” A good performance in South Wales had followed such a poor first 45 on Merseyside on Monday night that no amount of 2nd-half improvement could make up for. Pardew’s been criticised for his comments but I think they were tongue in cheek. He doesn’t think his side is a bad one at all, but he’d be a fool not to acknowledge the inconsistency already plain this season.
The thing is, many of us for our part as fans refuse to acknowledge that something went right on Saturday, and that Pardew probably had a fair amount to do with it. On Monday, the side that came out had an open door policy to opposition attacks, never got going and was overrun before they ever got a foothold in the game. Undeniably Pardew’s fault. Too often his sides are set up too cautiously and hand the initiative to opponents from the off. By the time he changes things the damage is done and it’s too late. Everton was a prime example. In contrast, at Cardiff the team roared out of the blocks, took the game by the scruff of the neck and got themselves in a position that a later Cardiff regrouping couldn’t overhaul. If he’s culpable for one, he’s got to be given credit for the other. He made a controversial selection, dropping fan favourites Ben Arfa and Anita, and the team’s performance was improved. The way the players hit the ground running and kept on working suggests that he hasn’t “lost the dressing room”, usually the final straw for an owner with an itchy trigger finger. Yohan Cabaye had his best game for the club in a long time. Whether you approve or not of Pardew’s tactic of praising the Frenchman to the rafters at every opportunity, he is back in the side, performing well, and that means it’s been successful.
I don’t think he’s the man for the job long-term, for the same reasons that I disapprove of Mike Ashley’s ownership; however well or how poorly the team does, we could have done better. In Ashley’s case it’s because he settles for just good enough to stay up and if that ends up as 5th place it’s by good fortune not design. In Pardew’s case, the bad has outweighed the good and for every Cardiff away there’s been 3 avoidably nondescript disjointed home performances. For both men, it’s not about the difference between relegation and European qualification, it’s that 16th could so easily have been 8th.
I’m aware, as no doubt he is also, that the knives are out for him among our fanbase. But we can’t come across as the three Unwise Monkeys: See No Good, Hear No Good, and Speak No Good. If we refuse to acknowledge when things go well, when he’s had some isolated minor success , we just look mean, unfair, and above all ignorant.