December 13, 2010
Manchester City fans were left spluttering into their cups of tea on Sunday as revelations that Carlos Tevez wants to leave Eastlands emerged.
'Doing a Rooney', the Argentinian handed in a public transfer request, before then blasting his club's handling of the situation, before denying he had a problem with everyone at the club. Why can no high-profile player just be happy in Manchester?
In a fairly uncompromising attack on Tevez, Sam Wallace at The Independent is among those in the press urging City to stop appeasing and mollycoddling their captain and just let him go.
"When Carlos Tevez joined West Ham on the last day of the 2006 summer transfer window with Javier Mascherano – in arguably the most extraordinary episode of illegal transfer-dealing of the last decade – it fell to Alan Pardew, who was the manager at the time, to try to explain it.
"When I met the players I didn't have to sell West Ham United to them," Pardew said. "They knew all about our success last season and our style of play as the Premiership is shown on TV in South America every week."
Unfortunately for Pardew – who it turned out was just as bewildered as to what Tevez was doing at Upton Park as the rest of us – he could not have sounded less convincing had he been standing in Green Street market behind a suitcase of reconditioned mobile phones.
Tevez has made a habit – sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not – of making managers and clubs look daft. In his wake as he has shimmied and feinted his way across English football in the last four years is a trail of rows and fall-outs. Yes, he is a good player but he also comes with a health warning as to his potential effect on a club's sanity.
West Ham? The club had to agree £21m in compensation for breaching the third-party rules on player ownership over Tevez's deal. Manchester United? His provocative gestures to the Old Trafford directors' box were followed shortly by the most rancorous cross-Manchester transfer in history. Manchester City? He wants out."
December 10, 2010
The not-so-shock appointment of Alan Pardew as Newcastle manager was confirmed yesterday and the former West Ham and Charlton boss cut a very lonely figure in his first press conference. Perhaps fearing an in-person backlash from the media, having already been roundly lambasted as murmurs of Pardew's arrival grew louder, the Magpies hierarchy were notable by their absence at St James' Park on Thursday.
It is a position Pardew is likely to experience more frequently should Newcastle face rocky times ahead, and Henry Winter at the Telegraph believes that the new manager's most important task is getting a group of players on side who are still distraught by the departure of the cruelly axed Chris Hughton.
"The man that the Newcastle United fans simply do not want as manager walked up to St James’ Park, knowing the uphill battle he faces to win friends and games here.
After signing a 5½-year contract, Pardew sat in the room where Sir Bobby Robson used to hold court, where the words of Kevin Keegan once had audiences spellbound, and where Alan Shearer articulated the dreams of a Geordie nation. It was a room where the popular Chris Hughton detailed Newcastle’s steady progress under him until he was so callously dismissed.
Entering a chamber packed with so many memories of adopted and local heroes, Pardew must have felt he had walked into an ambush. Brutally, he made the walk alone. Neither the Newcastle chairman, Mike Ashley, nor the managing, director, Derek Llambias, bothered to ride shotgun for their controversial new appointment. They left Pardew to take the heat. Alone.
Having overseen 527 games, the 49 year-old is no ingenu but rarely can a member of his trade have stepped into a dug-out that so resembles a bunker. The former manager of Reading, West Ham, Charlton and Southampton has no chance of succeeding on Tyneside unless he first gets a resentful squad onside.
Knowing the players mourn for Hughton, Pardew has already phoned Kevin Nolan, the captain and heartbeat of the team, and will address the players this morning. “It’s very important I calm their fears down,” Pardew said. “I’d like to think the players will grow to respect me.”
Players are professionals, employees on lucrative contracts and their anger over the treatment of Hughton will eventually subside, especially if Pardew handles dressing-room sensitivities adroitly. Mispronouncing his predecessor’s name as “Houghton” drew sotto voce sighs from the small band gathered in the room.
“Chris is a gentleman,” said Pardew, tackling head-on Geordie Grievance No 1. “I’ve not spoken to Chris but I probably will put a call in. I’ll give it some time because he will be hurting. I know he would have been genuinely well liked in the dressing room. I have to follow that. But there’s a different personality in that dressing room now. I wouldn’t say I am more confident. I just have a manner that can sometimes upset people. I’ve upset players in the past.”
Usually a self-assured character, Pardew was almost deliberately humble. He understood the supporters’ anger just as he did the players’. “If there are protests for Chris on Saturday against Liverpool, I have no problem with that – that’s the fans’ right. I hope any protest doesn’t last too long. It’s not about me after all, it’s about the club. We’re going to need a lot of help against Liverpool.”
December 9, 2010
Alan Pardew is not likely to get a very warm welcome in the cold north when he is paraded in front of the Newcastle fans and the Times' George Caulkin warns that he won't have a very long honeymoon period in charge either.
Alan Pardew is already facing a battle to win over players and fans at St James's Park after an appointment that has surprised many.
Alan Pardew will be confirmed as Newcastle United’s manager this morning, but his will be a marriage without a honeymoon. After a brutal few days that have left players and supporters bruised and bemused, the club will make their latest tilt at the long term, yet they can expect only short-term hostility.
If this is the answer, many will wonder at the point of the question. The abrupt dismissal of Chris Hughton, a man who retained the respect and affection of the dressing room and was instrumental in repairing a fractured relationship with the fans, has threatened everything.
Newcastle have been a delicate coalition since their relegation from the Barclays Premier League last year and now it has been disbanded. What is more, it has been disbanded willingly.
That, of course, is not Pardew’s doing. The 49-year-old was at Slaley Hall hotel in Northumberland last night for discussions with Newcastle’s hierarchy and, given his association with Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias, it is safe to assume that there was little to fret over. His contract with be lengthy — stretching for five years — and a £500,000 salary will be heavily incentivised for avoiding relegation.
Newcastle are fond of Peter Beardsley, the reserve-team coach, but Pardew hopes to name Ray Lewington, Fulham’s youth development manager, as his assistant and Andy Woodman, of Charlton Athletic, as his goalkeeping coach. Their first task would be to re-energise a first-team squad that coalesced and rallied at Hughton’s prompting. Footballers are pragmatic, but the unit has been shaken.
In a recent interview with The Times, Andy Carroll, the Newcastle striker, spoke about Hughton. His words were effusive and sincere. “Chris has brought everyone together,” he said. “It’s like you’re coming in to see your best friends every day, everyone’s so close. We go to the cinema together, share lifts, go for food. It’s down to him. He changed everything around.”
It was born of adversity, but as Newcastle strained for promotion, supporters witnessed something rare: players who, whatever their ability, brought honour to their shirts and fought for the cause. A team. At last, a team. In turn, it restored a link between pitch and stands, which had been frayed by the failings of too many athletes of deep wealth and shallow commitment.
Hughton was liked. He brought patience and a sheen of stability. It meant that after demotion, the treatment of Alan Shearer and Kevin Keegan, the plan to hawk the stadium’s naming rights, Joe Kinnear and Dennis Wise, and so many other miscalculations, despair at the owner could be put to one side. That was the coalition. That is what has been jeopardised.
Ashley and Llambias, his managing director, are not demons. They are three-dimensional figures who have intriguing ideas about football and this week’s events should not be viewed as wanton destruction. They have a logic - they had concerns about Newcastle’s home record under Hughton, who they viewed less as a natural manager than a coach - but it is a logic that can feel desperately illogical. In a season that, as far as Hughton and most rational observers were concerned, was all about consolidation, they have invited pressure upon themselves. It must be remembered that Ashley’s funding has kept Newcastle solvent and their aim is to create a self-sufficient business, but their timing is perplexing. Football may be a business, but emotion still lies at its core.
His colleague Oliver Kay also thinks the appointment is a bit odd, and actually gambles with the stability of the club.
Legend has it that when Sir John Hall made the call in early 1992 that shaped the most uplifting period in his club’s history, he told Kevin Keegan that “there are only two people who can save Newcastle United and we’re speaking on the telephone right now”.
Somehow it is hard to apply the same sense of poignancy to the tawdry series of events that is expected to conclude today with Mike Ashley appointing Alan Pardew as the sixth manager of his 3½-year tenure at St James’ Park.
Whether their eyes met across a crowded blackjack table or it was something altogether less seedy, this is not a last desperate tilt at salvation but a gamble that has already turned the air toxic on Tyneside.
The best managerial appointments are those that energise clubs in need of inspiration. That is what happened when Keegan went to Newcastle nearly two decades ago, with the side facing the threat of relegation to the old third division. It is what happened when Sir Bobby Robson arrived in September 1999 and restored the credibility and sense of excitement that had been lost in the immediate post-Keegan era.
The Newcastle of 2010 were not in obvious need of invigorating but they do now after Chris Hughton’s unedifying dismissal on Monday. Ashley needed to produce a rabbit from the hat, to pull off a coup that would restore the optimism that followed Hughton out of the door, but instead he has pinned his hopes on a mate who was sacked by Southampton, of npower League One, this season.
To paint Pardew as a managerial misfit is unfair because, during his time at Reading and the vast majority of his spell at West Ham United, he worked wonders. However, you fear for him now. If Roy Hodgson feels that he has had to overcome prejudices at Liverpool this season, the scepticism that awaits Pardew on Tyneside is on an altogether different scale.
Why is so much of this about what the supporters think? Because, at Newcastle of all clubs, it matters. The chemistry at St James’ Park is in some ways similar to that at Anfield, where passion, fervour and anxiety transmit themselves from the pitch to the terraces and back again. Their supporters ask for nothing but commitment and the possibility to be able to dream.
Newcastle’s performance levels have fluctuated wildly as expectations and self-belief have ebbed and flowed over the 18 years since Keegan’s arrival. Perhaps that was Hughton’s problem, that things threatened to become too stable and predictable in mid-table, but Pardew’s immediate challenge will be to banish the air of negativity that the events of this week have brought.
When Hall signed Keegan 18 years ago, Newcastle had nothing to lose. The appointment of Pardew is a far bigger gamble.
December 7, 2010
The press are up in arms about Newcastle's decision to sack Chris Hughton on Monday, and rightly so.
Universally respected by his players, Newcastle supporters and figures from across the world of football, Hughton has been cast aside despite leading the club to the Championship title last season and taking them to 11th place in the Premier League.
The general disgust for the behaviour of Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is best expressed by The Guardian’s Richard Williams, in a piece entitled “Just another dismal decision from Mike Ashley, a disgrace to football”.
"So Mike Ashley has now seen off five managers in just under three years as the owner of Newcastle United. Perhaps he is in a race with Milan Mandaric, who went through six managers in his three-and-a-half years at Leicester City. These people are a disgrace to football.
“To suggest that trust and continuity once bound a club and its community together is to sound like a hopeless romantic, drunk on nostalgia. And of course managerial sackings are not something that started to happen only after the Premier League came into existence. But all the available evidence suggests that the ability to make a decision and stick to it, maintaining faith even in difficult times, is more effective than a restless desire to use decent, gifted, experienced men like Chris Hughton as disposable lightbulbs.
“Ashley can, of course, do exactly as he likes, having been willing to sink more than £200m of his own money into the club. But it is probably fair to say that had Ashley run his Sports Direct business in the way he and his cohorts have run Newcastle, there would never have been the £200m in the first place.”
“Perhaps the hardest to manage of all England's leading clubs, Newcastle are built on legends and myths. Sometimes the owners and the fans find it difficult to differentiate between the two, and the task for a manager in the current era is complicated by a dressing room that has long given the impression of resembling the Augean stables. Given the club's inherent volatility, Hughton performed a great deal more creditably than his employers, whose bad decisions are now so numerous that it is hard to imagine them ever making a good one.”
December 5, 2010
After England's abject showing at the World Cup vote on Thursday, the recriminations continue in the national press.
Writing in The Observer, the ever-excellent Paul Hayward produces an impassioned piece that lambasts FIFA and longs for a more romantic appreciation of a once-great competition.
According to Hayward, FIFA's conduct in awarding the 2018 competition to Russia and 2022 to Qatar has sullied the World Cup.
"A lot of us loved the World Cup a bit less by Thursday night. The bond we thought would survive all shocks and violations slackened. Without the store of glowing memory we might feel like letting go.
"Old world arrogance is not the love wrecker. As FIFA delivered their double coup of Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022) football's communal carnival was cast as the private possession of 22 plutocrats. The World Cup has been stolen: appropriated by unaccountable empire builders who pick it up and drop it across the world for reasons that have nothing to do with custodianship and plenty to do with Fifa gain.
"Have I been cryogenically frozen for the last 30 years, you cry? Is this news? Well, yes. The 'football family' has never been one you would be glad to see moving in next door. The world governing body long ago mutated from administrating to deal-making as federations and their continental clusters snatched at the vast new wealth from television deals and commercial 'partnerships.'
"But this is something else. This is FIFA demanding detailed technical reports and then ignoring them. This is Russian political influence and Qatari petro-wealth smashing aside all considerations of fairness and fan participation in favour of hidden agendas. None is harder to fathom, by the way, than Geoff Thompson, England's representative in Zurich, whose glassy passivity was so aptly juxtaposed by the conniving all around him."
"What is the World Cup meant to mean? The shirts, the fascination with each country: the buttercup yellow of Brazil, the dark brilliance of Argentina, the new Spain, English ineptitude, French mutinies, the excitement of pinning up a wall-chart, camper van tours, making new friends, watching games in bars in the host nation and feeling a small part of the unfolding narrative. This is the World Cup – not FIFA. One day we will take it back."
December 3, 2010
It's no surprise that now England does not have the chance to host the World Cup until 2030 at the earliest, attention has turned to FIFA. Daily Mail journo Martin Samuel kicks things off in usual fashion:
The World Cup is a competition that is, essentially, forged in corruption, which is why it goes to countries that are essentially corrupt. Countries that will over-ride their tax system, their money-laundering laws and, in the case of South Africa, even ride roughshod over their constitution.
It is almost amusing that the lickspittle leader of England's bid, Andy Anson, now rails at the duplicity of FIFA executive committee members, having spent the last year selling reality down the river by by calling any criticism of football's governing body unpatriotic.
Now, reading between the lines, the England 2018 message is that the FIFA ExCo is populated by chisellers, liars and, quite possibly, crooks. We know, thanks. This is what we have been trying to tell you.
The Sun employed former England boss Terry Venables to write a scathing attack on world football's governing body. He just about managed it without breaking into song.
MAYBE we should not be that surprised Russia got the vote to stage the 2018 World Cup. After all, FIFA and the KGB are just about the last two secret organisations on the planet.
Because when it comes to a political intrigue, espionage and a good old-fashioned bit of cloak and dagger, those in charge of football's governing body would certainly give Russia's secret service a run for their money. How else do you explain yesterday's announcement in Zurich?
If you had given the script to the director of the new James Bond movie, he would have turned it down and accused it of being too far-fetched.
England beat The Living Daylights out of their rival bids, but were still met by Dr No. Unbelievable. And, if we're being honest, unjust.
The Daily Mirror went for Robbie Savage, who made good use of the word 'gutted' when putting forward his opinion over the decision.
They played the Fifa anthem when Sepp Blatter strode out on stage yesterday. But they really should have played the Neil Diamond song that starts: "Money talks..." The best bid has lost. The billionaire oligarchs of Russia and the oil billionaires of Qatar have won.
I'm gutted for your kids and my kids that they won't get to see the greatest tournament on earth staged here until at least 2030.
I'm gutted that English (and hopefully Welsh) fans who want to go to the World Cup will now have to travel to two of the most expensive countries on Earth to do so.
I'm gutted for my old Manchester United youth team-mate David Beckham, who spoke so eloquently on behalf of his country.
I'm gutted that Becks, the PM and the future king only lasted one round. Even Audley Harrison did better than that.
I'm so gutted I can't even get excited by the thought of topping up my tan in the Middle East in 2022.
Probably the only one not so gutted is Kate Middleton, who now won't have to include Sepp Blatter and Jack Warner on the front row of the wedding photos.
Even the Daily Telegraph's Henry Winter claims FIFA should be ashamed...
“We were stitched up,” confided a member of the England bid team. “The Prime Minister was stitched up. He thought he had a number of votes locked down.” He didn’t. For all the hours put in by David Cameron, for all the glad-handing by David Beckham and Prince William, England managed just one vote, along with that of Geoff Thompson.
England went out in the first round; even Fabio Capello’s side reached the second World Cup stage in the summer. The annus horribilis was complete.
Recriminations abounded on a day of dismay for England and shame for Fifa. Some within the England team pointed to Fifa’s ire over Monday night’s Panorama, believing it to be the reason why the accused Jack Warner turned against them. Others just fulminated privately about Fifa, about the decision to go for Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
Some logic can be detected in Fifa thinking over the land of the Great Bear, which has never hosted the World Cup and boasts a past footballing pedigree in Lev Yashin and current stars like Andrei Arshavin, whose emotional speech here on Thursday was genuinely moving.
Yet the real scandal in Fifa-ville was the decision to award the 2022 tournament to Qatar, a soulless, featureless, air-conditioned, cramped place with so little connection to football it required hired hands like Pep Guardiola. It was as if Fifa was saying “to hell with the fans”. Qatar 2022 will be a joyless experience for supporters.