Alan Pardew has admitted that he was warned by numerous managers that he would be “mad” to take the Newcastle United job and that he had serious reservations about accepting the post before today signing a 5½?year deal.
Pardew was confirmed as Newcastle’s eighth manager in little more than four years but said he almost turned his car around on his way to Tyneside and headed back to London. Unwanted by the club’s supporters and uncertain about what awaited him in the dressing room, he was also heavily advised to reject Mike Ashley’s offer.
But Pardew signed a contract that ties him to the club to 2016 after receiving guarantees that the England striker Andy Carroll is not for sale at any price and that there could be money to spend next month on strengthening a squad that his popular predecessor, Chris Hughton, had taken to 12th in the Premier League.
“I would be lying if I said I did not have some hesitation when I was travelling up,” said Pardew, who failed to save Charlton Athleticfrom relegation in 2007 in his most recent stint as a Premier League manager.
“I would be foolish to say it was not a concern. They have had five managers in the short time the owner has been here, but I genuinely believe I can do the job and they will stand beside me. It is a town I’m not familiar with, I make no bones about that. But I want to embrace it and their love for the game. I will move to the town and hopefully stay here a long time.
“I’ve had a lot of texts from other managers saying I must be mad coming here because of the tough agenda and the history of the ownership with managers, but it’s a huge club. It’s one of the top five clubs in the country. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I had not taken this challenge on.”
The length of Pardew’s contract probably has as much to do with the fact that he will be paid less over a longer period as a desire at Newcastle for long-term stability. The former Reading and West Ham manager, who was sacked by Southampton in August, pointed out that Newcastle have rarely had stable management and admitted the dismissal of Hughton had undermined the progress made in that area.
Protests are planned against the board and Pardew’s appointment when Liverpool play at St James’ Park on Saturday and his coronation looks like it will be an uncomfortable one. Fewer than 2% of those polled by the Newcastle Evening Chronicle this week wanted the 49-year-old to succeed Hughton.
“I know the fans are frustrated, I haven’t ignored it,” he said. “They thought they had stability with Chris and now that has gone. It is not something I want – and I certainly hope it doesn’t last too long – but if there is a protest for Chris in terms of a nice protest, and fans want to show their support [for him] then I don’t have a problem with that. That is their right.
“I don’t think I can win the PR battle. My battle is on the pitch – we have to win games. If I can do that, the PR will take care of itself. I’ve not determined what happened here; I’m the new guy.”
Pardew can do little to alter the fans’ perception of him for now but he can try to get to grips with dressing-room discontent. Several players have voiced their anger at Hughton’s departure and the managing director, Derek Llambias, had to try to explain the decision to the first-team squad at a meeting today.
Pardew said: “My most immediate task is the dressing room. I’ve only spoken to [the captain] Kevin Nolan briefly on the phone, but it’s obvious the players had a lot of affection for Chris. He was well-liked. I can’t think of a player in the group I’ve managed so I’m going to be something of a mystery to them.
“I have to make sure the players understand I’m a fair manager. It’s a tough challenge. I need to make sure there isn’t a massive impact on the team. Obviously this week there has been, and that is not good for any group of players. It’s important I bring some stability back to the dressing room and calm their fears.”
He asked the board to guarantee that he will be able to keep Carroll, the club’s leading scorer with nine goals, who made his England debut against France last month. “Andy Carroll was at the top of my list of questions because he needs to stay,” Pardew said. “This club has been crying out for another No9 and he looks like he’s fitting the bill, so I made it very clear that he needs to stay.”
He also intends to add to the squad. “The one thing I have managed to do in the past is convince owners to have faith in me and trust in me to invest,” he said. “Obviously, I have got to gain that trust before I start banging the door down.”