On the Pardew side, amongst other things, he has been anxious to remind we fans that we shouldn’t get too carried away with any kind of appreciation for the man who returned us to the Premiership, not to mention bringing former Tottenham colleague, Graham Carr, to the club as his Chief Scout in the February preceding his sacking.
As with much of what Pardew says, there was a whiff of some kind of underlying agenda in his comments. In some double-edged words of “praise,” he sought to diminish Hughton’s contribution to the club as he not so subtly reminded fans of previous smear stories which circulated about Hughton, saying that much of the credit for leading the club back to the Premiership should actually go to Joey Barton, Alan Smith, Steve Harper and Kevin Nolan as it was they who were really running the first team after Hughton’s appointment.
But firstly his advice to the fans on the appropriate level of appreciation to be shown towards Hughton on his return for today’s game. On this he remarked:
“Ideally for me as the Newcastle manager and for my team, I think it’s important that Chris’s thank you or whatever he’s going to get from the fans is perhaps done before the game or at the start. Then they need to get behind us because it’s going to be a tough game, don’t worry about that. I don’t really want Chris’ name sung throughout the game, that’s not really where I’m at.”
If I may ask Mr. Pardew, wherever you’re “at,” do we really need these lectures from you on how to support the team in the most appropriate fashion, or how much appreciation we should show to Chris Hughton? Most of us have been supporting Newcastle United for many years before you arrived, and we will no doubt be doing it for quite a few years after your departure too.
But anyway, he then dropped his heavy hint to remind fans of those above mentioned stories which started appearing in the media towards the end of Hughton’s stint at the club, and which intensified after he was sacked. They painted a picture of Hughton as a mere cipher who had little control of the dressing room, with the first team actually being led mostly by a cabal of senior players including Nolan, Smith, Harper and Barton. Even though Pardew wasn’t at the the club at the time, he then went on to not so subtly suggest it was those senior players who were more instrumental in putting the “spirit” back into the team, though at least he acknowledged that Hughton may have played some part in the team’s revival.
“As well as Chris, I have to pay credit to Kevin Nolan and Alan Smith, Harps and Joey Barton in that period in the Championship, because those senior players certainly helped Chris, there’s no doubt about that and I think Chris would be the first to say that. They should get some credit as well for what they did. Having said all that, we have moved on, but the spirit that was put in by those players and by Chris, has continued here. It is easy to build on” said the Silver Supremo.
Of course, he didn’t miss the opportunity to also remind fans of how “brave” Mike Ashley was in keeping “all the best players” at the club after relegation, though the team did actually lose many major first team players such as the then player of the season, Sebastien Bassong (now reunited with Hughton at Norwich City), Obafemi Martins, Damien Duff, Habib Beye and several others, though nonetheless, they still had one of the three best squads (along with Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion) in the Championship that season.
“You can’t underestimate getting out of the Championship, and although I thought Mike and the board were brave in letting him keep all the best players, you’ve still got to do the job, and I know from trying to get out of the Championship that it’s very, very tough. It’s a very hard job and he did a terrific part of that.”
“Both of us can probably look each other in the eye and say we’ve both done a decent job at Newcastle so far. On his part now he has a different agenda and a different project, it’s a tough one because Norwich second year in haven’t had too much investment in the team, so it’s tough. But they’ve got some good players and they had some good results last season, so it’s a game that for us that would probably put us in the top eight if we win – and that’s where we want to be.”
It is indeed true that Pardew knows how hard it can be to get promotion from the Championship after several near misses with clubs such as Reading, West Ham and Southampton, along with his abject failiure at Charlton, though he did manage to steer West Ham through the Championship playoffs at the second attempt in 2005.
Finally, on Pardew’s word’s about Hughton’s latest role at Norwich, it’s interesting that he should say that there hasn’t been much investment in the Norwich squad in their second Premiership year. This is because Norwich’s net spend in the last transfer window was actually around 3-4 times as much as Newcastle United’s, though Norwich’s squad still remains as one of the most cheaply assembled in the Premiership. But I digress…
Getting back to the main thrust of this particular piece, Mr. Pardew, please, please just get on with managing the team without the propanganda, without double edged comments and highly patronising advice to we fans on how we should behave, and what we should think and feel about Chris Hughton, Mike Ashley, Newcastle United, or anything else for that matter!