Part II: Playing the Blame Game
Because of all the success we had last season, anything that went slightly awry, (and there were many of them, but that’s for another day/blog) became difficult to criticise. Fans seemed to soften their opinions towards the fat man and Casino Derek (or at least turn them down to avoid derision from more optimistic supporters), and why wouldn’t they? The team was doing well and we looked like we had found stability and a vision for going forward into the future. This season however has been a different story.
The optimism gained from 11/12 was slowly eroded away, even the most committed Pardew apologists have doubts in their minds and most people now feel that he has overstayed his welcome. This deterioration in confidence doesn’t only effect the fans but also the players, the owners, but most importantly the manager. In an effort to avoid coming to terms with the reasons why his Newcastle career has gone so far downhill, Pardew now almost routinely blames different elements of the organisation (or at least ones that don’t have the platform to fight back) game to game.
The excuse (still) waiting to happen, the Europa League: At the start of our European campaign, Pardew made it clear that he will use young players to give them competitive experience in the Europa League group stages. I think we have now come to the conclusion that this was a smokescreen, not only to disguise the fact that we didn’t bring many senior players in to bolster a squad which had to contend with extra games. The second part of this plan came to fruition at…
The embarrassing defeat away to Brighton in the FA Cup Third Round (live on National Television no less): The players who had hardly set the world on fire in the group stages of the Europa League were put in front of the cameras earlier this month on arguably one of the most important games of the season, the FA Cup Third Round weekend. Facing a Championship team who looked far more up for it than we did, with experienced players who play a passing game was too much for a team of young players, who under normal circumstances would not be in the starting 11.
There may have been few ways we could have changed the team for the better that day due to injuries and the like, but that was no excuse for the way Pardew indiscriminately laid into our young, impressionable reserves who under challenging times had done their best compete on three fronts for the first half of the season.
“There are young players who have given everything there, their maximum performance. But unfortunately they shouldn’t be playing for Newcastle in the third round, they should be in our development team.”
They were effectively used as scapegoats for his failure to build a squad resilient enough to play multiple competitions and avoid an injury crisis. So thanks to this incident, many of these players who Pardew put so much trust in last Summer will more than likely get sold off or be condemned to rot in the reserves, all thanks to something that they have no control of.
And finally, the Reading debacle: Not content with demoralizing half of the squad, Pardew then turned on the fans in his post match interview. Talking about the fans reaction to Yohan Cabaye being substituted in the second half, Pardew said:
“That negativity spread around the stadium and to the players, and that’s what happens when you’re down at the bottom. It was a negative stadium second half and there was a lot of oo’s and boos and the players were trying to do their best.”
Effectively stating that the reaction to his substitutions on Saturday made us lose the game. We all know that the real reason was taking our foot off the pedal before we had secured a much needed 3 points against a team who knew they were in a relegation fight, opposed to Pardew who uses post match interviews to destroy the already low confidence of the club and to reaffirm his state of denial that Newcastle will improve as the season goes on.
This new tactic of blaming the loyal fans who turn up to every game at St James’ Park and follow the team all around the UK and Europe, only to witness the decline of this great football club before their eyes is frankly laughable and a disgrace. Football supporters cannot physically influence the outcome of the game (Darlington away aside) and are not responsible for buying, selling or picking players, and guess who is? Another point is that the fans have little opportunity other than blog or forums like this (besides studying to be a sports journalist and asking more probing questions in post match press conferences) to react to Pardew’s ramblings or to defend themselves against them. I cant see him saying the same things about the owners or sponsors.
I may be getting a bit romantic here but essentially it is the fans who are the heart and soul of the club. Mike Ashley may have his name on the door, but in the hearts and minds of NUFC fans he is an (un)trusted custodian of the financial aspects of Newcastle United and the true permanent owners of this club are the members of the Toon Army. Fans have the right to criticize players, staff and owners (more right than the national media has) and it shouldn’t be taken negatively, the whole reason for the boos at the end of the match on Saturday was motivated by the desire to see the club improve but instead it has been manipulated by Pardew to blame them for the clubs misfortunes. This blame culture has now been extended to at least one of the players in the form of Toon bad boy Nile Ranger’s tweets also criticising supporters:
“Certain fans need to not come and support this team… Coming out to BOOO us.. Stay at home.. Don’t need ur BOO’s…. SAY NO MORE !!!!”
Followed up by:
“Last thing from me… To all the fans. U are not forced to buy season tickets.. Or pay our wages.. Please remember that…”
I’d like to see the reaction he gets when (if) he next takes to the pitch.
Pardew has to realize this, take responsibility for his own decisions and, if not admit them, attempt to change them for the better. But many people who follow NUFC feel that any attempts to do this now would be too late given recent results.