Three years ago, Alan Pardew became Newcastle United manager after Magpies owner Mike Ashley unceremoniously axed former boss Chris Hughton. Thirty-six months later, Pardew is the second-longest-serving manager in the Premier League—second only to Arsene Wenger—and still splits opinion on Tyneside.
In his two full seasons with Newcastle, Pardew was responsible for his side finishing fifth and then 16th in the Premier League, a statistic that rather sums up the former West Ham manager’s stock in the North-East.
Pardew comfortably collected the LMA Manager of the Year gong after leading his side to a Europa League place in his first season, a season in which the Toon Army pushed for a Champions League spot until the final game of the campaign.
Ashley was so impressed that he awarded Pardew with an eight-year contract, effectively making him “unsackable” for the foreseeable future.
However, the success and smiles were short-lived as Newcastle struggled to juggle European and domestic competitions the next season and had to fight for survival until the final weeks.
Throughout the summer of 2013, the jury was still very much out on Pardew. Tactical mistakes and failure to add to the thin squad meant pressure built, making the start of the new season paramount to fans’ support. A poor start could have been the beginning of the end for the 52-year-old.
Once again inconsistency struck, with the Magpies following good performances with poor ones, including a demoralising loss away to Everton. The Derby defeat to Sunderland also threatened to start putting nails in Pardew’s coffin but a fantastic recovery has seen his stock once again rise.
Newcastle have won five out of their last six games to date, including memorable wins over Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United. The win at Old Trafford was something that will boost Pardew’s CV massively, as he became the first manager to lead the Geordies to a win against United in 41 years.
The reasons behind the recent upsurge in form are clear, as Pardew has finally found a formation that seems to get the best out of his key players. The “old-fashioned” 4-4-2 with an attacking partnership of Shola Ameobi and eight-goal Loic Remy has provided Newcastle with a genuine threat.
Hatem Ben Arfa, arguably Newcastle’s most individually gifted player, cannot find a way into the side as the players given a chance ahead of him—namely Moussa Sissoko on the right wing and Yoan Gouffran on the left—have performed brilliantly.
The two mentioned are prime examples of the unity in the Magpies’ squad now, as all of the French players brought in just under a year ago finally seem to have settled. Mathieu Debuchy looked like a shocking signing in the first six months on Tyneside but has now started to show the form that made him one of the European Championship’s stand-out players in 2012.
A mention has to go to Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, too. The former Montpellier defender struggled at the start of the season and rightly lost his place to Mike Williamson, but he has performed admirably when given the chance, albeit while not forcing his way back into the starting XI on a regular basis.
These factors have turned Newcastle from a side looking to have a solid, unspectacular season into a team pushing for a Europa League place. Pardew’s reputation is rising by the week.
So, after three years of inconsistency at the Newcastle United helm, Pardew’s job is safe for now. If the last two seasons have been anything to go by, though, do not be surprised if opinion once again swings the other way in the coming months.