F365’s early loser: Alan Pardew, world’s worst firefighter

Date published: Saturday 23rd December 2017 5:11

First came Roy Hodgson, Crystal Palace calling for the emergency services as early as September. Then in November, the Premier League managerial merry-go-round went into unimaginative overdrive. David Moyes, Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce were in employment once more; the rise and revenge of the British boss was complete.

Those four Premier League clubs were criticised for lurching towards familiarity, but the “second-class citizens” have fared relatively well. Palace, winless and goalless upon Hodgson’s arrival, are now undefeated in eight games. West Ham were beaten 3-2 by Newcastle on Saturday, but Moyes has squeezed performances and results out of a club he found gasping for air after Slaven Bilic. A 0-0 draw with Chelsea means Everton are six games unbeaten under Allardyce.

Three of the four much-maligned British managers have improved the league positions of those they have taken over, but Pardew is the outlier. West Brom were 17th when he replaced Tony Pulis; a 3-1 defeat to Stoke is damning enough, but slipping to 19th is the knockout blow.

West Brom thought they knew what they were getting. Pardew wears not only his heart but his lungs, kidneys and every other major organ on his sleeves. He is his own biggest fan, a streaky manager, an individual his teams come to love – or at least accept – before the relationship turns sour. The cycle is oft-told and oft-repeated. And above all else, he guarantees a ‘new manager bounce’ like no other.

Yet, with defeat to Stoke, the Baggies are five games without a win since Pardew was appointed. He was called to the scene of a small chip pan fire and has simply doused petrol all over the premises. The firefighter has turned a troublesome situation into an emergency.

This is the fourth time Pardew has taken over a Premier League team midway through a season. On the other three occasions – at Palace in 2015, Newcastle in 2010 and Charlton in 2006 – he has won at least two of his first five games. He was appointed at Palace in January, taking them from 18th to 10th. He was appointed at Newcastle in December, taking them from four points clear of relegation to seven points clear. He was appointed at Charlton in December, and while he failed to rescue them from the drop, they finished four points behind 17th, having been seven points behind when Pardew was placed in charge.

The worry for West Brom is that Pardew has simply bypassed the first part of his typical managerial rollercoaster: the zenith. For the 56-year-old comes with another guarantee: the eventual collapse.

In his last ten games at Palace, he lost eight. In his last five games at Newcastle, he won one. In his last eight games at Charlton, he won zero. West Brom have foregone the peaks of Pardew and simply skipped to the depressing troughs. The Baggies thought they could rely on the inevitable lift Pardew brings, but the rollercoaster has not even started yet at The Hawthorns.

On the morning of the Stoke defeat, Pardew spoke of a discussion he had with West Brom owner Guouchan Lai. “I think it’s fair to say we haven’t got a big pool of money to suddenly go out and buy ourselves a player for £20m,” said the manager of his January plans. “But we’ve got money in the kitty to talk about a loan player if we think we need it or a signing if we think we need it that’s not in that region of money.”

Considering Saturday’s starting line-up contained Allan Nyom, Chris Brunt, James McClean, Hal Robson-Kanu and a pedestrian central midfield of Jake Livermore and Gareth Barry, the prospect of a new loan signing or bargain buy does little to appease concerns.

Pardew has now won one of his last 16 Premier League games, and just six of his last 41; West Brom have won three of their last 30. But the Baggies already pressed the panic button to part ways with his predecessor. Who do you call when the firefighter uses the flames to come in from the managerial cold, but fails to actually solve the problem?

Matt Stead


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