The Reuters global sports blog
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.
Whoever takes over from Fabio Capello either as a caretaker manager or a long-term replacement faces the dauting task of living up to somewhat unrealistic hopes that England will land their first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup.
Let’s face it, the Three Lions have entered every tournament since, bar Euro 1996 on home soil, as one of the dark horses to bring the silverware back home but never as the top contenders among a plethora of more talented if not more resourceful nations taking centre stage either in European Championships or World Cups.
Fabio Capello arrived in London four years ago with a sparkling CV but for all his club success he departed still barely able to speak English and with his adopted country frought with division and long shots for success at Euro 2012.
It is ironic that his tenure was effectively ended by an interview given in his native Italian, when he said he disagreed completely with the FA’s decision to strip John Terry of the England captaincy.