Casino encounter gives Pardew final roll of dice
JUST when Alan Pardew's decline had appeared to be terminal, he has popped up again on the verge of the unlikeliest of comebacks, soon to be appointed the new manager of Newcastle United.
Five years ago, Pardew was one of the most highly rated young English managers around, after his idiosyncratic approach involving plenty of motivational mumbo-jumbo had led West Ham United to promotion to the Premier League.
However, his fall from grace was such that in August this year, he was sacked by League One side Southampton amid reports of unrest among staff at the club's training ground.
Appropriately enough, it seems his change of fortune came about in a casino, where he allegedly struck up a friendship with Newcastle director Derek Llambias. This friendship has now landed the former Reading, West Ham, Charlton Athletic and Southampton boss a remarkable return to the Premier League, where he was last seen taking Charlton down in 2007.
The choice of Pardew is not quite as unexpected as owner Mike Ashley’s decision to hand the job to Joe Kinnear two years ago, but it is not far off it. Pardew is certainly not short of confidence, and has the ego required to take on the powerful Newcastle dressing-room.
However, Pardew is a controversial figure who has a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way, and can often say things he swiftly regrets, such as his inappropriate use of the word ‘rape' on Match of the Day 2 last year.
Newcastle’s manager-elect was born in Wimbledon in 1961 and worked as a glazier and a cab driver while playing for several non-league clubs in south London. He eventually signed for Crystal Palace and carved out a career as a midfield workhorse, before hanging up his boots in 1998.
His managerial career began at Reading not long after, when Tommy Burns was sacked and Pardew took over following a successful spell as caretaker.
He swiftly transformed the club, with his emphasis on increased fitness, better organisation and a liking for motivational messages, using excerpts from speeches by Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King pinned up on the walls of the club's training ground.
He coined the phrase ‘Tenacity, Spirit and Flair' to sum up his managerial philosophy and, after results went his way at Reading , he quit the club to take over at West Ham in 2003.
It took a while for Pardew's methods to take root at Upton Park, but in his second season at the club they gained promotion through the playoffs, and in his third they reached the FA Cup final, in 2006, which they lost on penalties to Liverpool after a 3-3 draw.
At that point, Pardew was at the peak of his powers. His fall from grace was swift and sharp, however. Pardew bought himself a new Ferrari, and for a while he lost the plot, winning only four more games at West Ham before he was sacked in December 2006 by the new owner Eggert Magnusson.
He had clashed with West Ham's new Icelandic owners over the deadline day purchase of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, a deal that was struck without the manager's knowledge.
Pardew made his point by sticking the pair in the reserves, which with the benefit of hindsight was perhaps not the best move, and paid the price with his job. Things have not gone well for Pardew since West Ham.
He was out of work for less than two weeks when he was appointed manager of Charlton on Christmas Eve 2006, but he took them down five months later, finished mid-table in the Championship in 2008, and was sacked in November of that year after a run of eight games without a win.
After eight months out in which he re-examined his approach to management, Southampton offered him the opportunity to return in July 2009, where he did well in demanding circumstances.
By all accounts, he had mellowed some of his more outlandish quirks, and had learned from the mistakes of the past, but he still had the ‘positive thinking' posters plastered over the walls of the club's training ground.
Then came his sacking in August, two days after a 4-0 victory over Bristol Rovers, amid rumours that members of staff were unhappy with his behaviour. The perfect qualifications for a job at Newcastle, some might say.