You often find yourself losing faith in Player/Team/Manager of the Season Awards, as the football writers and professionals within the games often demonstrate an FA-esque ability to reach the wrong decision. But Alan Pardew has been named the Barclays Premier League’s Manager of the Season. And rightly so. The Newcastle United boss has steered the Magpies to their highest league finish in eight years and could yet surpass Sir Bobby Robson’s 5th place finish for the 2003-04 campaign. But even if Newcastle do not finish in the top four and earn themselves a place in next season’s Champions League, few would deny that Pardew is a deserving winner of the Manager of the Season award. Shrewd transfer business, attractive football and a steely resolve to a side which has been challenging for European football all season: something no one would have thought possible nine months ago.
Having lost some of their most influential players from last season in Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll, José Enrique and Joey Barton, many predicted Newcastle were in for a torrid time. But Mike Ashley’s transfer policy has paid serious dividends, while Pardew has allowed others to step into Barton and Nolan’s shoes, with Newcastle reaping the rewards all season. Signing Demba Ba on a free transfer proved to be one of the most astute pieces of business of the summer, especially when you consider the absurd amounts of money the likes of Liverpool were willing to fritter away on players like Stewart Downing. Then there’s Yohan Cabaye who was picked up from Lille for around £4.5million. He has been the stand out performer in the Newcastle midfield and indeed the Premier League this season and you have to question how exactly the scouts from the likes of Arsenal and Spurs managed to miss a talent like the 26-year-old Frenchman. And then of course there’s Papiss Cissé. While the goals may have dried up a little for his Senegal team mate Ba, Cissé has certainly not disappointed, netting no fewer than 13 times in 14 matches, not to mention one of two candidates for goal of the season. Not bad for £10million. It also important not to forget the rest of the side, with everyone pulling their weight for Newcastle this season. The back five have looked solid while the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa and Cheick Tioté have impressed during the second half of the season.
Let’s not forget that Pardew was not made to feel especially welcome by all Toon fans when he was first appointed. Many will admit they were unhappy with the way the club handled the sacking of Chris Hughton and were less than keen on his successor. But he has got on with the job and won the fans over in the right way. Newcastle have been winning games by playing entertaining football and have found themselves challenging for European football all season. When looking at the candidates for Manager of the Season, it’s important to consider what the ambitions and expectations of each club were back in August. Whether it’s the Champions League or the Europa League for Newcastle next season, it a pretty impressive achievement, given than some were even tipping Pardew’s side for the drop at the start of the campaign. But hats off to the Magpies and their manager. Some of us were expecting the wheels to fall off every week, only to be proved wrong time and time again. And every time they have suffered a setback, they seem to have bounced right back.
Manchester City and Manchester United would have seriously failed, had they not finished in the top two, while one of them is set to end the campaign with nothing to show for their efforts. United and City have both thrown the league away at various points during the season while they were in pole position with breathing space. Spurs have done it with third place once and Arsenal are currently doing their level best to choke at the vital moment. As for Chelsea and Liverpool, well, you should not have to go to the lengths they’ve gone to, spending god knows how much, to win the Carling Cup or the FA Cup. Remember, these are trophies that have been won by the likes of Birmingham City and Portsmouth in recent seasons. Chelsea now find themselves needing to overcome Bayern Munich in their own back yard in order to salvage some meaningful success from this miserable season.
So Alan Pardew, Manager of the Season. Spot on. He’s likely to enjoy plenty more success in the years to come. All he needs to do is to make sure he steers well clear of that England job for as long as he can.