Newcastle United’s inquest into a season of Premier League under-achievement started with manager Alan Pardew fighting for his career.
Mike Ashley, frustrated that United did not build on last season’s fifth-placed finish, demanded answers from Pardew ... and it was enough for managing director Derek Llambias to say Pardew would be allowed one “bad season”.
Newcastle’s campaign was a shocker, facing the prospect of relegation - a battle that was only won (thanks to Wigan's failure to beat Swansea and Arsenal) with a week of the season to spare.
Pardew’s own tactics have come under scrutiny from fans, with some supporters having called for him to be dismissed in the wake of the home defeats to Sunderland and Liverpool.
Pardew's 7 DEADLY SINS!
1) CREDENTIALS FOR THE JOB?
Pardew was appointed Newcastle boss on December 9th 2010, in a move that came out of the blue.
There didn't seem any pressure on then-boss Chris Hughton, but he was handed his cards and Pardew took his seat at a bizarre press conference that he was forced to take single-handed.
No club owner or managing director brave enough to answer the tricky questions about Hughton's departure, just a man thrown to the wolves looking as clueless as the reporters, saying he didn't know "why, what or how" things had come about.
Apparently Ashley met Pardew in a London casino (of all places), and the former West Ham boss talked is way into the job.
Did he have the credentials to wake the "sleeping giant" that is Newcastle United and WIN silverware? Not if his career record was anything to go by, as a player or manager.
Plenty of promotion attempts and accompanying relegations; but not a winners medal to scratch his arse with!
Did we need him then? Do we need him now?
2) CAN HE BUILD A TEAM?
West Ham and Charlton fans have flooded us with e-mails over the last couple of years predicting doom and gloom, saying Pardew has never had the ability to build a team of his own.
Apparently he has the ability to "tweek" someone else's side, but once the dust settles and he is given the money to buy - he struggles to weld the components together.
He buys individuals on their strengths; not with the foresight of putting the pieces of a jigsaw together.
The Hammers fans couldn't wait to see the back of him, and Charlton fans stayed behind after one game for more than an hour chanting "We want Pardew out!"
At present we wonder who actually picks the signings, as United have scouts searching this country and across Europe.
Does Pardew have the final say ... because Kevin Keegan didn't?
And all too often Newcastle United (this last season) have looked like a set of individuals thrown together with no emphasis whatsoever on the term "team".
And having bought the likes of Obertan and Anita, he's in a position where he will have to justify them.
Where do I start!
I think the stats can tell you more:
a) Most goals ever conceded in a Premiership season.
b) More long balls than any other Premiership club.
c) Not scored from a corner in more than two years.
d) Most defeats EVER in a Premiership season.
e) First time we have lost three home games in a row since the 2008 relegation season.
f) The defeat to Liverpool was the biggest home defeat since 1927.
g) The only WORSE home defeat we have suffered from the Mackems was the 9-1 back in 1908.
Our biggest concern is the defence. Yes too many times central defenders have been statuesque when they should have been tracking, but it's the attacking full-backs that have cost us most points.
There is nothing wrong with Danny Simpson and Davide Santon racing down the wings - but it's the poor positional sense of the midfielders who are supposed to be covering - that has seen us punished time and time again. The question is - have they been told to cover - or is it simply a free-for-all?
Premiership managers have us sussed out, and they had it sorted back in August! "When Santon pushes forward, as soon as we get the ball, hit the gap behind him".
Wait for the DVD for the season highlights for 2012/13 comes out and count how often it happens.
Do we actually have a system? There certainly wasn't one against the Mackems or Liverpool, and too often we have had to resort to the long-ball because I don't think many of the players out there know what is expected of them. And it's probably the long-ball system that is the cause of so few goals from midfielders. We don't have a Kevin Nolan or a Gary Speed in the team - someone who can produced 12 or more goals a season.
The corner count has been a joke this season. Not a single goal scored from a corner since Demba Ba put one past Wolves more than two years ago.
Watch Chelsea, Man Utd and even West Ham on corners. They have worked on them, as the stats show.
Man Utd scored from 17 corners last season. Lucky? Just swinging the ball over? It's amazing how LUCKY you can be when you work on them and KNOW what you are doing.
4) LIVERPOOL 0-6
This was how the game was built up by Pardew - "We are going to put the derby defeat behind us and give our supporters something to cheer".
I am 57 years old and I have seen some horror performances by Newcastle teams of the past - but I swear to you - I have NEVER seen a piss-poor performance as bad as the 6-0 suffered against Liverpool.
Others walked out, but I wanted to watch the whole 90 minutes, to watch how the players reacted at the final whistle ... but most of all, to watch what Pardew did.
For those who didn't see his reaction - he legged it down the tunnel!
Let's put this into perspective, this was not the great treble-winning Man Utd; or the Liverpool "Red Machine" of the 1970s. This was an average Liverpool team, stuck in mid-table, who were missing their star striker.
And they took us to the cleaners, as the Newcastle players couldn't even raise a gallop to chase shadows.
Heartless - gutless - utter SHITE!
5) FRENCH CONNECTION
This French infatuation is a major concern, especially considering Pardew had a major fall-out with Arsene Wenger when the Frenchman used 11 foreign players when Arsenal beat Real Madrid five years ago. Pardew went public to say, regardless of the win, Wenger was doing English football "no good".
Now he is following Wenger's lead, going French, but there is one major difference - Wenger knows the language; Pardew doesn't. That in itself has us wondering if the rumour of cliques in the dressing room is correct. Thinking about it - if the French players don't know English (as we are lead to believe), it is hardly surprising they are sticking together. But it doesn't make a good dressing room.
Personally I couldn't give damn where the players come from; as long as they produce; and sadly (after an initial decent couple of weeks) the team hasn't improved since January.
Pardew insists there won't be a French interpreter at the club when the players come back from their holidays, making us wonder - will things get better or worse? They aren't gonna learn English in a month, I'm sure.
6) MIKE ASHLEY'S PUPPET?
It's a golden rule at St James' Park - question Mr Ashley, and you're on the next train out of Central Station. Keegan said his piece and walked (before the boot up the backside); Hughton questioned Ashley's ambition and - like a bolt out of the blue - he was replaced. It's happened to players too - Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll, Alan Smith and Jose Enrique (the player's union). All given the last rights because Ashley's motives were doubted.
The fans suffered a similar fate. The singing section was disbanded because the club owner grew tired of being the butt of the songs. He's a tough task master, and he only tolerates are lickers.
So where does Pardew stand in all this? He is a "yes man", of that there is no doubt. He will champion Ashley's cause whatever, because he knows which side his bread is buttered.
But Ashley knows that replacing the manager would be a costly business. Not so much the contract (which is only September-to-September rolling, and not the eight years we were lead to believe), but Ashley knows he can get away with a hell of a lot that he wouldn't get away with had we a character like Paolo Di Canio.
Plus, a new boss would demand a hell of a lot more to rebuild the team. Ashley will be pointing out that this current team is very much full of Pardew's players, and it's time the Wimbledon-born boss started producing results, even though he must have doubts about the quality of Anita, Obertan, Mbabu, Amalfitano, Bigirimana and Good.
Apparently Ashley wants "stability" along the lines of Everton. "A manager is not just for Christmas".
Eleven years of Moyes and Everton haven't won a sausage - yet during that time Chelsea are about to name their SIXTH manager - and they have won:
3 Premier Leagues; 2 League Cups; 4 FA Cups; 2 Community Shields; UEFA Champions League; and UEFA Europa League.
When Ashley offered United staff £1m if Newcastle beat Arsenal on the last day of the season, to help his beloved Spurs qualify for the Champions League, we knew where his heart lies. Proving Newcastle Utd is a toy for his own amusement.
We learnt a lot last August when Pardew said: "The Europa League is well down our list of priorities. We have the Premier League as our major priority and perhaps with a little luck get success in the FA Cup".
The end result - we came very close to relegation out of the Premier League; and fell at the first hurdle of the FA Cup to Brighton!
Pardew claims Newcastle don't need Europe; yet he praised his own success the previous season because we QUALIIED!
He wants a Top Six finish next season - but doesn't he know the whole point of getting into the Top six is to qualify for ... errr ... Europe?
Apparently United's horror season was caused by our participation in the Europa League, causing injuries and leaving his team exhausted. We had seven away trips, yet did fairly well when the players returned from their travels, beating Fulham, Stoke and Southampton, and the only shock was the home defeat by West Ham.
We actually did far worse when we were knocked OUT of Europe; with a full squad; quoting Sunderland and Liverpool as two of the disasters!
I'm sure European trips do drain players, but he used 32 players in that European campaign, making as many as nine changes to the team that played the previous weekend. It was NOT his regular first team making the flights, as many stayed behind on Tyneside.
What got me most was Pardew's quote on the last day of the season: "Thank God we are not in Europe next season!"
If he cannot handle the heat ... isn't it time he got out of the kitchen?
To be a successful Premiership club it is accepted that Europe is the goal, and Ashley knows it - otherwise why put up a £1m incentive to help Newcastle get Spurs into the Champions League?
So I'm sure Pardew's quote won't rest easy with the club owner.
As for the fans? Remember the Reading fixture when he blamed the supporters for their "negative attitude" when they sang: "You don't know what you are doing!"?
All in all I don't know what we are doing with a manager who has not won "Jack shit" in his entire career?
The Chronicle reports today two thirds of Newcastle fans don't think he is doing a good job.
We are NEWCASTLE UNITED!
Only Man Utd and Arsenal get more people through the turnstiles.
WE ARE A MASSIVE CLUB WITH MASSIVE POTENTIAL ... so what the hell are we doing with this dead-beat as manager?