Scout Graham Carr has been the unsung hero of Newcastle's surprise success story, writes Dion Fanning
Only once before has the function been sold out, which was when the local boy Alan Shearer addressed them. On Thursday night, they also needed a bigger room. Fifteen hundred people crammed in to hear Pardew speak. Just over a year ago, they would have turned up simply to tell him he wasn't welcome.
Pardew has recognised the contribution made by Graham Carr, the father of comedian Alan, and the club's chief scout.
Carr has allowed Newcastle to implement a strategy of cutting down on their wage bill, losing the highly-paid English players which they felt dependent on and finding a bunch of players at bargain prices who have driven them up the table.
When the Liverpool owners took over, they were the ones who talked of sabermetrics and Moneyball. Newcastle had the oafish owner who was more familiar for downing pints with the supporters. But he has been more successful in applying those principles. When Newcastle want to sell, and every player has a price, they know they will make money on the players Carr has found.
Carr is an unlikely part of the Newcastle tale. He succeeded Dennis Wise in his duties but where Wise represented the brashness of London which grated on Tyneside, Carr is an old football man who was born in Northumberland and understands the area. "He has a tremendous eye for a player," said John Moncur, who worked with him when they were at Tottenham.
Newcastle have a system that demands a suppression of egos, with the manager prepared to acknowledge that it is not just his eye that is spotting a player. Carr, those who know him say, is perfect for the role he now has. "He has a wealth of knowledge," Moncur says.
The key to finding the right talent is knowing which people to listen to in a world where a manager and scout will be bombarded with suggestions.
Carr has been central to this. After a lifetime in the game, he has a good list of contacts but he also knows which ones to call. Ben Arfa is represented by the former QPR player Simon Stainrod and Newcastle's discovery of fresh undiscovered talent in France has led others rushing back to a market which conventional wisdom said had no hidden bargains.
The bargains may not last as the rest of English football charges late to the party, demonstrating that in football, as in every area of life, the wise and unconventional are in the minority.
Newcastle have been brave. The most amusing moment of last week took place when John Carver, a man brought back to Newcastle as assistant under Pardew, was asked if the club had any regrets over the sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool. For 35 million pounds.
Newcastle have not looked back since Liverpool came looking in desperation last January. When Carroll was a young boy, many wondered if he should continue at the club but, the story goes, it was Carver who recommended he be taken on a scholarship. Ultimately, this decision made Newcastle £35m.
At the time, the sale was seen as a lack of ambition, part of Mike Ashley's plan to make as much money as he could which followed quickly on from the dismissal of Chris Hughton, an honourable man, and the appointment of Pardew. Newcastle supporters feared the cockney mafia again.
"At the time there was uproar," says John Anderson, the former Irish international who knows the club better than most. "Now when you meet the fans they tell you it was too good an offer to turn down."
Newcastle knew that they couldn't turn it down, ushering Carroll out the door but they can't have imagined the triumph it would become as the players brought in to replace him, Demba Ba and now Papiss Cisse, scored the goals that have kept Newcastle's run going.
Pardew has built a strong rapport with the players, Anderson says. He is a manager whose own ego seems to draw something from players who respond by revealing their own.
"Tactically, he's very astute, he knows a lot about the opposition every time we play," Anderson adds.
Pardew has altered the side's formation throughout the season, switching from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 and now playing a 4-3-3 which allowed Hatem Ben Arfa a free role.
Ben Arfa was a classic Newcastle gamble. His ability was never questioned in France but a series of rows led people to wonder about his temperament. As a result, Newcastle had a bargain.
He has recovered from the shocking leg break last season and surprised many who had followed him by being reasonably patient as he fought to get back in the team.
"I will respect his authority and keep my philosophy whether I play or not," he told L'Equipe in an interview earlier this year when asked about Pardew. "For me, football is a game based on lots of movements and passes. The coach likes the long, direct game. He often says, 'cross it in the box', but I completely respect that philosophy. I will not start any arguments, my time will come and I just have to be patient. I am ready both physically and mentally."
Pardew has timed his recall of Ben Arfa well, starting him in the last three matches, bringing life when Newcastle would have been expected to fade. There have been some big defeats on the road, conceding five at Fulham and Tottenham, but there has also been the surprise defeat at home to West Brom.
Yet St James' Park is coming close to being the intimidating venue it once was, even if the name has officially changed.
Mike Ashley's decision to change the name of the great old stadium to the Sports Direct Arena last year was an indication that he remains as committed to extracting revenue and probably selling the club as he ever was.
Ashley has at times courted popularity with the appointments of Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer but when he sacked Hughton in 2010, many felt that he was causing unnecessary disruption.
Hughton had saved the club in their time of need, managing the big egos in the dressing room with a keen intelligence and an absence of histrionics.
His replacement was viewed as another brash southerner who would have great difficulty understanding the Geordie people.
"People thought he was a yes-man," John Anderson said. As the club was dismantled, those fears didn't seem groundless.
Carroll was sold, then Kevin Nolan. Joey Barton expressed his dismay and then he was moved on as well. Liverpool got some value from a signing when they picked up the full-back Jose Enrique but Newcastle were making their money work too.
Newcastle's next move will be interesting. European football would allow the fans to believe that the club is moving back to where it once was; not necessarily title winners but Champions League contenders.
Others will be hovering, with Tiote the most likely to leave and Newcastle again will be prepared to sell at a premium price.
If Carr can continue to spot the players then Pardew is ready to advance his career by shaping them.
"This season has been beyond everyone's wildest dreams," Anderson says. That's quite an achievement. Ashley might have succeeded in lowering expectations, but the Newcastle supporters have always known how to dream.
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