It would not take a seasoned football analyst to tell you that the opening months of the new Premier League season have been disappointing for fans of Newcastle United. An abysmal run of results has seen the North East club pick up a mere three points from their six games so far, leaving them stranded in the relegation zone, despite a summer transfer spree that saw the club spend an estimated £25 million on new recruits.
This failure to improve on last season’s underwhelming opening to the season has left many fans questioning manager Alan Pardew’s ability to take the club forward whilst also generating yet more anger towards the club’s already deeply unpopular owner Mike Ashley. A vocal section of the Newcastle support have displayed banners at games calling for Pardew’s sacking, whilst Ashley was embarrassingly caught out by an undercover reporter claiming Pardew had only one game to save his job – the midweek clash against Stoke which Newcastle subsequently lost. Despite this, Ashley has so far stood by his decision to retain Pardew and the manager himself has been defiant in statements to the media. However, the question on Newcastle supporters’ minds remains whether continuing under Pardew’s stewardship is the best option for their team.
It must be taken into account that, despite a poor start to the season, Newcastle are not in reality that far removed from a mid-table position. A resilient performance to draw with Hull followed by a battling victory against Crystal Palace in the League Cup gave supporters renewed hope but a poor performance against Stoke served to extinguish some of the optimism that had been building amongst the club’s fans. In addition to a string of lethargic performances critics have also slammed Pardew’s activity in the transfer market citing the failure to adequately replace creative lynchpin Yohan Cabaye as one of the root causes of the team’s poor form coming into the new season. However, the determined nature of the previous performances will give some hope to followers of Newcastle that Pardew has restored at least some of his team’s shattered confidence.
Another factor that has to be considered is the compromises that the new Financial Fair Play Rules (FFP) have forced clubs to make between financial stability and on-pitch performance. This was perhaps highlighted best by Manchester City’s decision to send striker Alvaro Negredo on loan to Valencia with a mandatory purchase clause in the deal in order to alleviate some of the pressure imposed on the club by FFP despite an exceptional debut season for the Spanish forward. Since taking control of Newcastle in 2007 Mike Ashley has made concerted efforts to reduce costs across the club whilst maintaining their place amongst the elite of English football. This would seem to suggest that falling into the all-too-familiar cycle of hiring and firing managers based on short-term results would be at odds with his strategy for the club’s future. It is believed that the cost of sacking Pardew, who was handed an eight year contract extension in September 2012, could run to as much as £5 million which, whilst a seemingly inconspicuous figure compared to some of the astronomical transfer fees paid by Premiership clubs, is undoubtedly money Ashley would rather not part with.
Newcastle fans might also wish to consider the long term implications of managerial turnover that blighted their neighbours and fierce rivals Sunderland last season. The quick fix hiring of Paulo Di Canio in the wake of Martin O’Neill’s sacking managed to prevent Sunderland from being relegated but Di Canio’s lack of Premiership managerial experience proved costly the following season and only a miraculous run of results under new boss Gus Poyet prevented relegation to the Championship. Following this Poyet was handed a two year contract extension in May 2014 and Sunderland have continued to progress under his leadership whilst avoiding the mistakes of the past and planning for long term stability rather than short term success.
It has to be remembered that only two years ago Pardew was considered one the country’s top managers and had guided Newcastle to a place in European competition. Over the following months we may see the Alan Pardew of old re-emerge to lead Newcastle to a solid finish but Newcastle fans will want to see results sooner rather than later and every day without results can only add to the pressure on Pardew and his team to produce.