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Pardew’s Palace Renaissance: A Misjudged Manager?

Alan Pardew’s enjoyed a wonderful, entertaining start to his second stint at Crystal Palace, returning as manager to the South London club for the first time since leaving as a player in 1991. Thanks to four goal heavy, and ultimately won games for the Eagles, the club already look in a much better position than before he took over. Palace were Pardew’s first professional club as a player, despite signing for the club at the age of 26, having spent the early years of his career at various non-league outfits. Now, he returns to the club as a manager with bags of top level experience upon which to draw, having previously taken the job at Reading, West Ham, Charlton, Southampton and Newcastle.

As one of the Premier League’s most recognisable silver foxes, and a manager who’s enjoyed some success with unfancied teams over the past decade or so, Pardew should probably be rated higher as a manager than he is. Yet thus far, Pardew’s work hasn’t won him too many fans in high places; it says a lot that when leaving Newcastle, Pardew’s direction was towards Crystal Palace, rather than a bigger side who might wish to take a punt on a talented and still relatively young manager. Just why is that?

Perhaps some of this lies with the struggling in interpreting Pardew’s stint at Newcastle; fans and the media can’t reach some kind of consensus as to how successful he was in the North East. The circumstances in which Pardew took over at St James’ Park didn’t help – parachuted into the job in place of the highly popular Chris Hughton in 2010 – and Pardew always faced an uphill battle to win over the Geordie faithful, but a fifth-place finish in 2011/12 went some way to securing widespread support. The next season was tougher – the Magpies were unable to balance the Premier League with Europe, and dropped to sixteenth; the next year or so continued on a similar trajectory, with a poor season ending in a tenth placed finish last year and a poor start to this season; much of this, however, wasn’t down to Pardew, who lost many of his key players, including Yohan Cabaye, without much in way of a replacement.

In spite of this, a resurgent run this season, which saw Newcastle go more than two months unbeaten, beating the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea along the way, improved Pardew’s relations with his fans at Newcastle and also positioned himself as a manager firmly as a star on the rise.

It’s become very clear once again that Alan Pardew is, indeed, a very talented manager indeed, and his good run this season has continued; since taken over at Palace, his side have won all four games – albeit two in the FA Cup – with a reasonable run of games to face them in the Premier League over the coming weeks, too. This has been in spite of the absences of lynchpin midfielder Mile Jedinak – at the Asian Cup with Australia – and star winger Yannick Bolasie, also away on international duty, at the African Cup of Nations with DR Congo. The immediate future at Selhurst Park looks very bright, with the return to form of Dwight Gayle and the signing of Yaya Sanogo hinting at a hopefully more prolific second half to the season for the London side than the one which they endured under previous incumbent, Neil Warnock.

A good run between now and the end of the season at Palace could lead to an increased stature for Pardew, whose reputation is currently marred by his failure at Southampton, and a few high profile spats with the like of Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini and Hull’s David Meyler in recent times. These were just the latest in a spate of disputes which go back right to the beginning of Pardew’s managerial career; he has an ongoing conflict with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, while leaving Reading in 2003, after a successful stint with the Royals, led to the threat of legal action from the club’s former owner John Madejski, so bad were the terms on which both parties parted.

These problems were grounded in Pardew wanting to move to a bigger club. Reading had turned down managerless West Ham United in their approach for their Pardew, who’d guided the Royals to the playoffs in the third tier – Division Two as it was then called – before promotion the following season, and a playoff campaign the subsequent season in Division One (now the Championship). This was a good turnaround for Reading, who until Pardew’s stint in charge had been languishing towards the bottom of the third tier, and in moving to West Ham, he had a better crack at the Premier League. Finishing in ninth in the Premier League in his maiden Premier League season with the club, having been promoted in his first full season with the club through the playoffs, Pardew also reached the FA Cup final, eventually losing to Liverpool. His stock as a manager had never been higher.

A poor start to the next season led to Pardew losing his job before Christmas, however, and a poor two years at Charlton, in which he oversaw his first relegation as a manager, and moved dangerously close to a second relegation before being sacked left a stain on his CV, which forced Pardew to take a job where he’d begun: in League One. His path had taken him to the South Coast, taking over at Southampton, and despite a ten point deduction, he enjoyed a relatively comfortable first season, in which the Saints won their first trophy since the 1970s, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. A rift between Pardew and the owners eventually led to his removal from the job, and replacement with former Scunthorpe boss Nigel Adkins – probably the low point of Pardew’s career managerially.

That said though, since then his direction’s been firmly on the up; the aforementioned spell at Newcastle, before his current spell at Crystal Palace, have re-established Pardew as a top manager, and it is surprising that Pardew hasn’t found himself linked with too many top jobs as yet.

If his current run at Palace continues – Pardew’s men have won all four games under his stewardship, and have a relatively good run of fixtures in February to help consolidate the club in the mid-section of the Premier League – this could yet change. The individual performances of his players will play a large part, but it has been the tactical improvement of replacing Neil Warnock with Alan Pardew, and also the South London-born manager’s excellent man management which have ultimately led to a strong push in the FA Cup this season, and also a renewed exuberance in the Premier League in the two games Pardew’s lead the side through.

How long is it until Pardew’s back in the frame for a big job? After all, it’s clear that he has, by now, amassed a raft of experience at different levels of the game, remains on the young side for a manager, at just 53 years of age, and has the talent to cut it at the top level. It depends, of course, highly on vacancies, but the signs are that his managerial stock will continue to rise as the season wears on. At that point, how can a big side – even a national side – say no?

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