By John Howell.
Pardew seems like a different man since leaving Newcastle for the seemingly impossible task of saving the Eagles, but after five wins in nine matches is it not time we game him a bit more credit?
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When Alan Pardew was confirmed as the new manager of Crystal Palace, many, like me, thought it was a bold but ultimately fruitless move. ‘Destined for relegation’ was my first thought. It seemed he was jumping at an opportunity to leave Newcastle United on his own terms – for a club who would be more accepting of his polarising personality due to the former ties that bind them.
Following Neil Warnock’s disastrous return to Palace that saw him sacked at Christmas with the London club in the bottom three, Pardew entered Selhurst Park with more questions than answers. His reputation somewhat tarnished from his time on Tyneside thanks to his unseemly, and sometimes downright disgraceful, touchline antics.
And it’s not like his less-than-desirable behaviour was exclusive to the North East. During his time at West Ham United, Pardew was no stranger to controversy with several spats against Arsene Wenger standing out.
Yet no one can question his ability to persevere through a storm and perhaps it was that trait that prompted chairmen Steve Parish and Stephen Browett to gamble on the 53-year-old. Since his appointment, Pardew has gone on to register five Premier League wins in nine matches, jumping to 12th in the table and the board’s flutter seems to be paying dividends with their place in the top flight secured.
So what has Pardew changed to achieve such a promising start? Firstly, the man himself seems in happier spirits. Liberated from the shackles placed upon him by Newcastle’s board, the ravenous Geordie fans, and fluctuating local media, he’s gone back to his roots and found pleasure in his profession once again.
Pardew receives the adulation from the Selhurst Park faithful that he so badly craved in the North East. He is wanted at Palace; the club he famously fired into the 1990 FA Cup final with his header against Liverpool – a clip of that goal must have been replayed a thousand times over when he was announced as Palace’s new manager.
Transferring his new-found optimism onto the training ground, the former midfielder has galvanised his side to defend soundly whilst clinically taking their chances at the other end of the pitch.
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Congo winger Yannick Bolasie has become the cornerstone of the team’s play, stimulating them when on the ball, supported by influential captain Mile Jedinak, a blossoming Dwight Gayle, and the resurgent Wilfried Zaha.
Let me make it clear that, antics aside, I take nothing away from his achievements at Newcastle. A club that experienced the highs of Champions League football just over a decade ago, it was the fans’ clamour for yesterday’s glory, along with an unenthusiastic board, that suffocated what was a relatively decent managerial spell for Pardew. Remember, this was a team who just five years ago were playing football outside of England’s elite league.
In contrast, Palace are a club who know their limits, operate within their means, and where any finish above 18th place is considered a success. So with all of that in mind, it appears his marriage to Palace has become the perfect remedy for both parties.
We’re quick to jump on Pardew when his flaws surface, but not always so happy to pat him on the back when deserved. I may not be the biggest Pardew fan myself, but now it is our turn to swallow whatever personal opinion we have of the man and give him credit for a job well done so far.
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