A way a lone a last a loved a long the / riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs (James Joyce; Finnegan’s Wake).
The first word I went to type for this piece was our current manager’s first name, but my ham-fisted pounding of the keys caused me to hammer out the slightly inaccurate Aslan Pardew. On reflection, I suppose a rather fitting analogy for 2012/2013 would have been to talk about C. S. Ashley’s allegorical fable Toonarnia, featuring the kindly, anthropomorphic Mr. Tumbias, in a land where it is always winter, but never the January transfer window. However, if one must make a literary analogy to sum up Newcastle United in the season just ended, whereby the news that Tony Pulis has left Stoke and is therefore available for managerial work, alongside freed West Ham donkey and infrequent goal scorer Carlton Cole, is of more relevance to our current plight than news of Manchester City’s repulsive franchising venture in to the MLS with New York Yankees, then I feel we should turn to James Joyce.
Of late, Alan Pardew’s post-match press conferences have been as syntactically idiosyncratic, lexically complex and ideologically ambiguous as the adventures of the Earwicker family in Finnegan’s Wake, specifically ALP’s closing monologue quoted above, which is of course delivered as she disappears in to the ocean. However, I had hoped our manager would have internalised some of Joyce’s earlier, more accessible work; specifically the character of Gabriel in what I consider to be the finest short story written in the English language, The Dead. Towards the end of this piece Gabriel Conroy, facing up to the hollow shell of his loveless marriage, his own worthlessness and the inevitability of death, undergoes a trademark Joycean epiphany, while musing how glorious it could be to die for what one truly believes, love in the instance of his wife’s dead childhood sweetheart Michael Furey, rather than atrophying impotently on the vine -:
Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.
I doubt our manager (henceforth referred to as Aslan Livia Partridgebelle) could comprehend the eternal veracity of such a sentiment, whether it be delivered by Joyce, Dylan Thomas ("Do not go gentle into that good night") or even by Neil Young (“It’s better to burn out than fade away”), much less apply the truth of it to the style of play that has bored and infuriated Newcastle United fans in the season just finishing. If he does become better ontologically versed, would it be too much to ask that he leaves his post on June 16th?
Seriously; other than Spurs, Southampton and Chelsea, have any of our home league games really been worth watching? Have any of our players, excellent though many of them are, put in a full, quality season? Fitness issues may be unavoidable, form problems can be addressed with proper coaching, but idiotic tactics and farcical formations are the responsibility of those employed to manage the club and cannot be defended at any level. I’m simply amazed that Pardew hasn’t tried to play up the fact we finished above the Mackems as evidence that the season hasn’t been that bad after all. Thankfully, I’ve not heard any of our lot claiming we’ve won the accolade of North East top dogs, after finishing fifth bottom. Then again, closer inspection of the tournament rules show that the title is only awarded when they finish above us.
Newcastle United’s first team squad are not like sunderland’s; these are not bad men who cannot be governed, except by transgressing fundamental principles of employment law in a dictatorial style, these are good players whose skills have been badly utilised. This must stop; now. By the way, have you noticed how soft the press are on fascism on Wearside? Perhaps because their fans have accepted it, unquestioningly, in the same way they failed to address the imperialist ideology underpinning their sponsorship deal with Tullow Oil.
I did not expect to see Pardew shown the door immediately after safety was assured at QPR, though this would have been nice. In fact, in the days following that game I was able to wake up with a smile, knowing I’d not need to spend large parts of my day, worrying about relegation; it felt like emotional freedom and I revelled in it. By the end of the week I was almost happy to allow Pardew to stay in his job, but news of his cancelled phone in on Radio Newcastle alerted me to the dangers of such sentimentality. Why was that phone in cancelled? Presumably because he’d been told to axe it, to stop him unconvincingly mumbling his way through any searching questions about the ownership or the team’s underperformance, but also so everyone’s time wouldn’t be wasted by listening to bland platitudes and soft queries by planted stooges.
My opposition to Pardew hardened appreciably after seeing his “team” one last time. On Sunday May 19th, I saw a Newcastle side, limited by injuries and woefully short of any credible threat in front of goal, give it a real good go in the second half but still lose unluckily to a single, questionable goal that had more than a hint of offside about it. Sadly, I’m not talking about Newcastle United’s performance against Arsenal, but Newcastle Benfield’s defeat by Spennywood / Evenmoor, the Northern League franchise outfit and FA Vase holders, in the League Cup final that was the last game to be played at Consett’s decaying Belle Vue ground, which will soon be replaced by another flat pack miniature from the non-league design conveyor belt, equipped with the de rigeur 4G all-weather surface.
Frankly, the only thing the two games had in common was the final score; 0-1, resulting in a third successive home loss without scoring, where the aggregate was 0-10 and a preposterous final home record of 9-1-9. What I found particularly sickening about Newcastle’s performance was Pardew’s timid acceptance of a “narrow” defeat, reinforced by his tactics and substitutions, as he no doubt felt it would provide him with a stronger bargaining position when fighting for his job, rather than considering what was best for Newcastle United, in his post season “summit” with Ashley and Llambias. To me, it seems abundantly clear that the cowardly, unadventurous approach that has blighted the 2012/2013 season was crystallized perfectly in the last half hour of this game.
The first substitution saw Anita, who has gone from being “shit” in the eyes of the intolerant Twitterati to Platini’s natural heir on account of not playing it seems, replacing Cabaye. This was not like for like; Cabaye is our creative force, when on form (which he hasn’t been since Benfica second leg), while Anita is a neat and tidy, bits and pieces player who admittedly didn’t put a pass out of place on Sunday, but is most effective as a Tiote without the unnecessary fouls. Anita played his natural game on Sunday and his introduction meant we ceded 15 yards in the middle of the park that a half interested Arsenal strolled lazily around.
Next for the hoist was Yoan Gouffran, a player who, like Cabaye, has been the subject of ignorant, totally Francophobic abuse from the kind of self-selected superfans who got so battered before QPR away they were heading away from Loftus Road twenty minutes before kick-off, no doubt singing Please sell Cabaye (Ironically? Unironically? Who knows?), until the intervention of some kindly old timers put them right. Perhaps it was their first time at that ground. As far as Gouffran is concerned, I like him tremendously as a player, as he is about the only attacking option we have, in the absence of Sissoko bursting from midfield (sigh), who can run on to the ball over the top or round the back. Despite his ability to pop up with important goals of late, at West Brom and QPR in particular, Gouffran is always substituted, regardless of how he is playing.
On in his place came Sylvain Marveaux, another who has been transformed in to a superstar because he hasn’t played; indeed his two passes to Cisse for the winners versus Stoke and Anji, have elevated him to the same level as Messi and resulted in him gaining an award from the massed ranks of NUST for being their Most Improved Player of 2012/2013. They gave their overall Player of the Year to Krul, presumably because he can kick it further than anyone else, or something. Let’s be honest, if you’re sick to the back teeth of Pardew’s aimless hoofball tactics, where Krul has been the player most responsible for such ugly play, then it is a cause of rejoicing that Andy Carroll is seemingly on his way to West Ham and not us; otherwise, imagine how zero dimensional our play would be next season…
Incidentally, NUST had linked up with Hadrian Border Brewery to market Black & White Ale, whereby 5p a pint goes to NUST to distribute to local charities. I’ve not tried it but, according to someone who has, apparently the beer “is both bitter and bland, promises much yet delivers little, being hampered by an anonymous body and a non-existent head.”
Marveaux tried his best on Sunday, but as his introduction meant we were effectively playing 4-5-1, he created nothing. Quite why Adam Campbell came on to replace Yanga-Mbiwa is beyond my comprehension. I don’t wish Campbell any ill and find it amazing that he’s playing in such a game in the Premier League while his peers still play for Whitley Bay Juniors and Wallsend Boys Club in Under 18 finals at Percy Main, but putting him on for the last 10 minutes was the surest sign that Pardew expected nothing out of the game; we may as well have given one of the ball boys or a pissed bloke from the Gallowgate middle a run out. Or Obertan…
I must say that while I’ve been one of his harshest and most severe critics, I felt enormous respect and affection for Steve Harper on Sunday. The emotion he showed in the 37th minute as his name was sung was very moving to see; I just wish more people had joined in with me on 74 when I tried to get a chant of “there’s only 2 Steve Harpers” off the ground. Harper’s honesty in talking about his mental health problems will obviously have struck a chord with some of our supporters and, rather than bleating on in tribute to a murdered drug addict and suspected child molester who brought nothing but shame on this club, perhaps they can reflect on that. We should support those who deserve it.
Unfortunately, and in trying to guess what will happen next at SJP one may as well read tea leaves, it appears that Pardew will be given another chance. Without wishing failure on our club, that probably means up until Christmas, before the time comes for yet more “transition.” The unappealing and indeed unacceptable truth of our club’s situation under Ashley is that whether Pardew goes now or halfway through next season, we won’t materially improve while Ashley owns this club. It seems that any potential Newcastle United manager needs to fulfil the essential criteria of being out of work, so as not to incur compensation payments, timid of spirit, so as not to question the decisions of those above him, grateful for employment, thus prepared to work for buttons and happy that all transfer decisions, in and out, have precisely nothing to do with him.
Would Rafa Benitez or Roberto Di Matteo be prepared to accept such working conditions? Don’t be ridiculous!! We may as well dream of Jose Mourinho coming in. The fact is; if Pardew goes, we’re looking at someone of the calibre Pulis, Hughes or Warnock, I’m afraid to say. Even Roberto Martinez wouldn’t come; mind, I’m not sure he’s good enough. He may have won the FA Cup (the day after my late maternal grandfather, a certain Ben Watson, would have been 103; sadly he died in 1967), but he also relegated Wigan. Personally, I’d have settled for that; I’d have settled for winning the Europa League then going down, but it does show the need of being careful for what you wish for.
On Sunday, I gave a final cursory clap to Steve Harper, and then headed for The Bodega before the “lap of honour” started. Apparently the last ones off the pitch at the end were Williamson and Shola; while this may be even beyond parody, it seems clear looking at some of Pardew’s quotes, that they are both out the door this summer. It is a shame that Pardew won’t be joining them, but in the same way another cumbersome centre half and journeyman forward will arrive to replace them, another prosaic, underachieving, limited tactical dinosaur and smooth talking bullshitter will end up in the dugout.
From my perspective, agitating against Pardew is not enough of a solution for our club’s problems; it is Ashley and Llambias we really need shot of, if Newcastle United are ever to be credible participants in the Premier League again.