If David Moyes fancies a swift return to football, they would surely welcome him with open arms at St James’s Park.
Newcastle United are a miserable football team, bobbing lifelessly towards the end of the season like a dead rat in a canal. In two years, Alan Pardew has gone from touching distance of the Champions League to touching cloth as the defeats mount up. Even a man as immune to criticism as Mike Ashley must realise that a change needs to be made.
Imagine being a Newcastle supporter now. Imagine how crushingly dull it would be. As someone who might remember Kevin Keegan or Sir Bobby Robson, you’ll probably have some fleeting memory of football being fun, but you won’t be able to correlate it with anything you’ve seen this season, or last. Your team does not exist to win, or entertain, or battle against insurmountable odds. It exists only to perpetuate its further existence. There are lucrative TV revenues to be secured, boys. Now get out there and maximise your profitability.
The players know the score. Footballers have never been much more than livestock to the owners, but at Newcastle there’s a feeling that now they actually realise it. They’re in a holding bay, happily munching straw and waiting to be sold on at a profit. And they don’t care. They’re just going through the motions because they have no reason to do otherwise. The points are on the board. Somehow.
I defy you to produce a rational explanation for their presence in the top ten. Those 14 wins they’ve put on the board aren’t real. They can’t be. Did you see all of them? Did you? I didn’t. No-one did. They never happened. They can’t have. This is just like the Moon landings all over again. They are surely the worst team ever to lay claim to a place in the top half of the table.
Newcastle’s inability to score is genuinely impressive. They’ve failed to find the net in 13 of their last 18 Premier League games which, when you consider how many goals go in by accident, is absolutely outstanding. By the law of averages alone, it shouldn’t be possible to rack up this many nils.
It was all so different just two years ago. In 2012, Pardew’s team reached this stage of the season still in contention for a place in the Champions League. Though they were never quite as good as their results suggested, there was a collective strength in place that ensured they hardly ever gave a poor performance. To a man, they were consistently offering up ‘seven out of ten’ displays, always doing exactly what had to be done, always covering for each other in case of a rare slip-up. You could see how well they were coached in the way they closed down their opponents, in the way the lines moved as one. They were, in fact, the exact opposite of what you see now.
Not all of this is Pardew’s fault, by any means. Working for Ashley, a man who seems to invite conflict and revel in chaos, must be immensely frustrating. Pardew has little control of recruitment and cannot retain players if his superiors decide that it’s time to cash in. But there are ways to prosper in those situations, there are variables that can be tweaked. Fitness, set-pieces, team ethic. But none of it seems to be happening anymore. And that is Pardew’s fault.
Moyes made mistakes at Manchester United. Doubtless, as he sits on a beach today and glares into the middle distance, he’ll recall every single one of them and he’ll tense up inside and curse himself for not being more decisive. But he remains a proven manager. He is a man who can organise a team, get them fit and keep them motivated. All of the things that Pardew used to be able to do before his lights dimmed.
Ashley has tried to lure Moyes to the North-East twice before. Whether Newcastle remain in the top ten or not, he might want to give it another go. Third time’s a charm.
Moyes is 3.75 to land the Newcastle job in 2014.