The rift between Newcastle United fans and manager Steve Bruce are well documented, yet divisions are nothing new on Tyneside. Former Magpies boss Alan Pardew knows what it’s like to be a figure of irritation in the football-obsessed North East.
“It is stressful,” Pardew tells the May edition of FFT, which you can order here (opens in new tab). “You can’t get away from it, because there’s a morning paper and an evening paper, and it’s full-on. The city is religiously fanatical about the team, and rightly so. I once went into a petrol station and bumped into a fully-grown man in a full kit – socks, shorts, everything. Incredible. Only in Newcastle have I seen that. I loved it.”
Pardew enjoyed a topsy-turvy four-year reign at St. James' Park, with fans critical of his stewardship despite two top-10 finishes - including finishing 5th in the 2011/12 campaign - between 2010 and 2015. Much of the ire aimed at Pardew stemmed from his perceived relationship with unpopular owner Mike Ashley. Fans felt the pair were thick as thieves, and believed they’d met in a casino and become friends prior to Pardew’s December 2010 appointment.
“It was one of those things where, if you deny it, you make it worse,” reflects Pardew. “I’d never met him in a casino – that was total nonsense – but it doesn’t matter with the internet these days. It’s ridiculous. People say all sorts of things about you – you just have to get on with it.
“It was tough at times, though,” he continues. “There was a lot of anti-feeling towards Mike and then me, as Mike’s employee. I felt I did a really good job there in trying circumstances, but I couldn’t get away from the criticism.”
“I first met Mike and asked, “What’s the criteria?” and he told me finances were tight,” Pardew tells FourFourTwo. “He felt he’d been let down with transfers by some of the management teams he’d had – not necessarily [previous manager] Chris Hughton, but prior to that. We’d have to fight every game on a tight budget. I thought, ‘OK, that’s what I do’.
“Mike’s trusted source for signing new players was Graham Carr,” explains Pardew, who now serves as Technical Director for Bulgarian outfit CSKA Sofia. “I’d have the final say, but Graham put them in front of me and did a good job. We got some really great value. Sometimes you have clashes – I’d want someone with more experience while Mike wanted a young player – but you get that at every club.
“When I left, my net spend was something like £1 million – it was run that tight. It was difficult but we had some fantastic players: Cheick Tiote, God bless him, Fabricio Coloccini, Yohan Cabaye, Tim Krul…”
Despite some solid on-field results, and the infamous eight-year contract he’d signed in 2012, Pardew left to re-join Crystal Palace in January 2015.
“When Palace came in for me I said, “Look, Mike: it’s just.”I can’t win them over.”, remembers Pardew. “I left when we were ninth, I think. We beat Everton in my last game there, but it had reached a point where I thought, ‘It isn’t doing the players any good, me being here’.
“At first I think [Ashley was sad to see me go], but in hindsight I think he felt it was the right thing to do. Palace was a great opportunity. I didn’t think they were performing well and felt I could get more out of the team.”
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