Could Pardew take Champions League spot and England job from Redknapp?
By Phil O’Connor
Unheralded and unpopular when he took over at Newcastle United, Alan Pardew has led them into the upper reaches of the English Premier League, and within touching distance of a Champions League place.
The question is whether he can beat Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Redknapp to fourth spot and the last Premier League place in football’s top club competition – and make himself a contender for the England manager’s job at the same time.
Pardew replaced Chris Hughton at the helm of Newcastle in December 2010. It wasn’t an easy task; Hughton, popular with players and fans alike, had brought the Geordies back to the Premier League on a shoestring following the ignominy of relegation.
Selling striker Andy Carroll didn’t help his cause, but this season has seen Pardew’s side climb almost unnoticed and return to the heights they enjoyed under Bobby Robson.
Between his team and a place in the Champions League is a Tottenham side managed by Redknapp, who was installed as favourite to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager from almost the moment the Italian resigned.
Since then, Tottenham’s form has suffered and the clamour for Redknapp has receded somewhat, but there is still a strong preference for an English manager from fans and the FA alike.
To outside observers, this might seem strange – Glenn Hoddle is the only England manager since Ron Greenwood to have a win percentage of over 50 percent and he is one of only three managers to do so (the other two are Walter Winterbottom and Alf Ramsey).
Steve McClaren may have won exactly half of his games in charge, but a 3-2 loss at home to Croatia in Euro 2008 qualifying saw England miss out on a major tournament for the first time in 14 years.
None of England’s recent caretaker managers – Howard Wilkinson, Peter Taylor and Stuart Pearce – have managed to win a single game and they were all English.
Pardew might be able to change all that. His Newcastle side may not play the free-flowing football practiced by the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City, but they are extremely effective. The 50-year-old’s team are very hard to beat and though happy to pass the ball around, their direct, counter-attacking football has surprised many more auspicious teams this year.
Perhaps most importantly, little is heard from the Newcastle dressing room these days; prior to his arrival, some of Pardew’s players had reputations as playboys, out on the town partying when they should have been resting.
Whether he could work his magic in a dressing room full of big-name players from England’s biggest clubs is a different story.
But his ability to put out a team that is more than the sum of its parts will surely have caught the attention of those looking to find Capello’s successor.
And if he manages to swipe the last Champions League pace from under the nose of Redknapp, there’s nothing to say that he couldn’t take the England job too.