Why sacking Alan Pardew is far from a simple solution for Newcastle



90 minutes is a long time in football. On Saturday, that was precisely how long it took for talk of sacking Alan Pardew to go from daft media reactionism to the consensus of every single person holding a pint in Newcastle. I know because I was one of them.

A Liverpool side missing their talismanic frontman and with little left to play for inflicted the heaviest defeat the Magpies have suffered on their own patch in almost 90 years. It was an inexcusable performance that was greeted with the usually fatal combination for managers: cries of derision and a mass exodus. It wasn't the first major disappointment of the season but on this occasion, without a huge list of absentees, without a Europa League hangover, without any shocking refereeing decisions, and with no generous slice of luck for the opponents to point to, Alan Pardew finally ran out of excuses.

Jonas Gutierrez and Cheick Tiote, both enduring their worst runs of form since they arrived at the club, started in midfield. Vurnon Anita and Yoan Gouffran, both of whom were in the midst of a purple patch, were dropped. Yohan Cabaye, the team's most creative outlet, routinely found himself picking the ball up in his own defensive third, before spraying it forwards to Papiss Cisse, a player who's about as effective at direct hold-up play as a traffic cone with a bullseye loosely balanced on top. It's been almost 300 corners without a goal (seriously - Demba Ba, October 2011); the tactics ignore the individual strengths of the players; and the mindset has become steadily more negative as the threat of relegation has grown. I could go on.

Newcastle aren't a bad side. On paper they're even stronger than the team that blitzkrieged their way into fifth place last season. But they're now crippled with problems that lie squarely at the feet of the manager. The solution then, is seemingly obvious.

But there's a catch. It's not even the eight-year contract that Pardew signed (as the club were at least savvy enough to litter it with clauses ensuring any potential separation wouldn't be financially ruinous). The catch is in the way the club is structured.

The traditional football model runs as follows: Man buys club, man appoints manager, man signs cheques, manager does all the football stuff. It's a bit like a marriage, but all your passive aggressive notes come out as press releases instead of just reminders on the fridge.

At Newcastle the model is different. Mike Ashley's name is above the door (or rather Sports Direct is, and it's above absolutely everything) and beneath him are a collection of individuals all tasked with the various elements of running a football club, each only answerable to Ashley himself. Graham Carr handles acquisitions, Derek Llambias looks after the money, and Alan Pardew simply has to make sure that whoever's available to him gets results on the field. So far only one of these three men isn't doing their job correctly.

Replacing him would be all well and good, but the problem of who to bring in shouldn't be understated. In the wake of Chris Hughton's sacking, Pardew's previous relationship with the owners, his track record of working well with his hands tied, and ultimately his willingness to accept the model they have put in place made him the outstanding candidate. Any manager they find with a long-term goal, or any designs grander than their own, immediately rules himself out.

The list of names that would be banded around were Pardew to receive an uncomfortable phone call this week is as long as the balls he's been making his side play this season. But the only candidate who'd fit the criteria of achieving success without ever even having a sniff of financial workings is Roberto Di Matteo. He took over a group of players he didn't sign, tweaked his predecessor's faltering tactics and never once asked for a go on the cheque book. The likes of Rafael Benitez and David Moyes might both be available this summer, but they'd both be crippled by their own ambition.

It's disrespectful to what Pardew achieved last season to label him as nothing more than a yes man who's eventually been found out, but the successes of 11/12 were more to do with the workings of the club as a whole than his visionary leadership. Newcastle United now have to hope that it's simply one of the cogs that's broken, rather than the machine as a whole.

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