Alan Pardew for Newcastle, but Martin O’Neill was fans’ choice
When Alan Pardew takes his seat at St James’ Park on Saturday he will be well aware that he wasn’t the fans’ choice for the job.
Passionate Geordies wanted former Northern Ireland skipper Martin O’Neill to step into the Newcastle United hotseat following Chris Hughton’s departure.
Pardew trailed in last in an on-line poll carried out in the local Evening Chronicle newspaper, where supporters were asked to name their favoured candidate for the vacant post.
The former West Ham manager, sacked by League One Southampton in August, polled less than two per cent of the vote, well behind Hughton.
The voting was topped with 42 per cent by O'Neill, however the Kilrea man was never a serious candidate given the financial constrains the new man will have to work under, and Maritn Jol, who ruled himself out of the running earlier this week, scored 33 per cent.
Those constraints are likely to see Pardew, who will earn a basic salary in the region of £750,000-a-year in addition to performance related incentive bonuses on a lengthy contract, receive only a modest transfer kitty in January.
With Newcastle currently 12th, four points above the relegation zone, he is aware there is plenty of scope for the club to go backwards. Pardew will be the sixth manager of Mike Ashley's three-and-a-half-year Newcastle reign. Reserve coach Peter Beardsley will be in charge of the team against Liverpool — before the new incumbent takes his first training session on Monday ahead of the trip to Birmingham City on Saturday week.
Rumblings of planned fan protests against Ashley to mirror those which met Kevin Keegan's sudden departure two years ago are gathering momentum in what could prove to be something of a tough introduction for Pardew, who can expect at best a tepid reception from the stands and, for that matter, a dressing room still loyal to Hughton, who led them to promotion from the Championship in May.
“If they're going to fire someone as good as Chris, they have to then bring in a big name, someone who has won trophies,” Jose Enrique, speaking before any appointment was made, said. The Spanish defender added: “If they just bring in someone similar, it's a joke.”
Certainly Pardew isn't as left-field as the appointment of Joe Kinnear in 2008, but his imminent arrival has been largely met with dismay, a view reflected by Newcastle fanzine nufc.com: “Hopes that the club had a viable plan to go forward seem to have evaporated.
“Bewilderment amongst supporters has now rapidly given way to fury, with Pardew seen as bringing nothing to the club that Hughton lacked. Pardew is set to arrive in an atmosphere of renewed hostility that helped destabilise the club with disastrous consequences in our last top-flight campaign.”