In both football and life, the funniest thing I have ever seen is when our PE teacher (a vicious lunatic with all the compassion of a sucked mint) accidentally knocked himself unconscious with a cricket bat. He lay there for a few minutes while we, his openly guffawing pupils, hastily formed plans to stuff conkers up his nostrils. The second funniest thing I have seen is Alan Pardew f*cking something up.
Pards is, and has been for some time, one of the Premier League’s most laugh-at-able characters. Whether thrusting his immaculate side-parting into David Meyler’s confused face, tussling with notorious touchline scrapper Arsene Wenger or simply gobbing off at a nice chap like Manuel Pellegrini, Pardew was the kind of buffoon for which the smirking punditry lie ‘we don’t like to see that sort of thing’ was invented.
Fans around the country, no matter how hopeless their own lot was, were thankful every day that they didn’t have Pardew to worry about. Steve Bruce doing his usual nice-but-rubbish plod down the table? At least he’s not Pardew. Gus Poyet blaming a bad defeat on Haribo and clouds? He’s no Pards though, is he. Nigel Pearson setting fire to his own face and head-butting the kit man to death? I’d sooner have a murderous, flaming Pearson any day.
And then something dreadful happened. Pardew became good. No, worse than that, he became really good.
Walking out of a poisonous, futile Newcastle job into his spiritual home at Crystal Palace, Pardew instantly transformed the Eagles’ decidedly Neil Warnock-looking fortunes. He joined the club with them thrashing about in 18th and by the time the season was done he’d propelled them to 10th (and looked pretty marvellous along the way).
The bunch of players no one had really paid attention to at Palace were suddenly getting talked about. Yannick Bolasie was a sticky-footed trickster, Scott Dann was the kind of defender who’d happily get hoofed by an elk to stop a goal and Jason Puncheon was craftier than a bin bag filled with wizards. Even Wilfried Zaha, a player not good enough for David Moyes’ Manchester United tribute band, looked incredible.
And this is the same Alan Pardew who finished the 2013/14 season at Newcastle with a run of 6 straight losses that had fans setting up websites, defacing Primark bed sheets and generally behaving like Pardew had personally travelled around Tyneside shoving toddlers into the river.
Not content with a season of unexpected and immediate success, Pardew has even had the audacity to strengthen an already decent-looking squad. In comes Yohan Cabaye, a player who could deliver a pinpoint pass even if he was trapped inside Donald Trump’s tingling anus. Patrick Bamford, the Championship’s Player of the Year, seems more likely to follow the Harry Kane path rather plunge through the Franny Jeffers trapdoor. Bakary Sako was just about the best winger in the Championship last season and as for Connor Wickham, well who the f*ck actually knows.
But, in amongst all the froth and gush of ‘New Pards’ we should all remember that Pardew does tend to start jobs pretty well. Where he falls down is maintaining anything that resembles consistency. At Newcastle, he took the team to 12th , 5th, 16th and finally 10th . He is a manager of extremes and even last season for Palace he quickly followed a startling 4 game winning streak in the league with 4 losses on the trot.
However, Palace may present his best chance to finally apply the brakes to the Pardew rollercoaster (which we should probably call ‘Pardegeddon’ or ‘Alan ParDOOM’ or ‘Alan’s Big Rocket’ – not that one). After all, what can we really ascertain about any Newcastle manager apart from the eagerness with which they dance for Mike Ashley’s grubby pennies.
So if Pardew does get the best out of these new signings; if he integrates them amongst last season’s star men; if he overcomes a tricky beginning that sees Palace face Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Spurs in the next 6 games AND if he can clamber to the top of the most competitive mid-table tussle ever, then there’s one very realistic possibility…
August 2016. Alan Pardew: England manager.
As horrifying as that may be right now, if Roy Hodgson face-plants his way through another desperate tournament – and the wonder-brains at the FA turn to the most eligible English candidate – it’s not an inconceivable sequence of events.
And maybe that’s when we’ll all finally stop laughing at Alan Pardew. Unless somehow, in some unexpected way, at precisely the worst possible moment, he simply goes and ‘Pardews’ it all up. Again.