When Wifey and I were living in New Zealand Sky NZ would show all the English Premier League games in their entirety but not necessarily live. So now we are living just outside Norwich avoiding the Newcastle United score until we can see the game feels less like an inconvenience and more like of a reminder of a lifestyle we were fond of but chose to give up.
The day Newcastle played at Hull however I hadn’t turned my phone off because we were yet to decide if we wanted to wait in blissful ignorance for the highlights of an essentially meaningless mid-table game. Sipping cold Bitburger in The Plough I got a text from Tom, a Norwich fan and incorrigible scamp, which simply read “Hahahahahahaha,” when there was still 20 minutes of the match remaining. This was confusing because Tom has never mocked my team via text before and this message definitely lacked details. I couldn’t begin to imagine what he meant . I also couldn’t get an internet connection on the train home and, full of Bitburger, I fell asleep in front of Roma v Bologna so it was only when Match of the Day started that my curiosity awakened. “Why the hell are we on first?” asked Wifey.
Tom’s text again, “Hahahahahaha”, nagged at us and we got increasingly nervous as Newcastle went 1-0 then 2-0 then 3-1 up, what the hell had happened? Then “Whoa!” and “What?” and as Tom had so accurately said “Hahahahahaha” – We had been dreading a double sending off, 4 own goals and Hull winning 11-3 so our manager being shoved and responding by nudging some no-mark with his head came as a great relief.
Unfortunately the media stamped all the joy out of this essentially humorous aside with their tedious and predictable overreaction. A proper head butt is a sickening thing to behold, with blood, crunching bone and concussion. Pardew overreacted but no actual damage was done, football is full of overreactions that don’t see the level of punishment handed out to Pardew. In the end that punishment added up to a seven game ban and £160,000 in combined fines which, if rumours are to be believed, is about four years wages for AP.
Imagine, if you will, that the manager dismissively barged aside by a player had been Sir Bobby Robson or the recently sanctified Alex Ferguson – how would the story have played out then? “Ah”, you may say, “but no player would push so disrespectfully past either of these gentlemen.” And I would say “Exactly.” The initial impudent shove that started the situation wasn’t by Pardew it was by David Meyler yet Steve Bruce came straight out and said how well his player had done and we ended up with people asking why he even got booked.
Morally Pardew did the right thing by apologising but you don’t admit any liability in football if you have any sense because as soon as you accept the blame you get hammered for it. This is because the Premier League, terrified by powerful clubs employing expensive lawyers most of the time, will then take the opportunity to try and prove to the media how toothless they are not.
Witness Loic Remy and Bradley Johnson being sent off at Norwich: Johnson instigated the situation, escalated the situation then play-acted to get Remy sent off (something he tries to do “all the time” according to our mate Tom). Initially Pardew said both players had to go but Norwich manager Chris Hughton said Johnson isn’t that kind of player (“He f***ing is” says Tom) – result Johnson got his red card rescinded and we had to play sunderland without our best player because the ban on Remy was upheld.
You will no doubt recall the odious Dave Whelan saying Callum McManaman played the ball when he tried to cripple Massadio Haidara last season. An obvious lie but McManaman got clean away with any retrospective punishment. Compare the Pardew situation to what McManaman did and compare the punishment. Anyone suggesting that NUFC isn’t getting the shitty end of Premier League justice isn’t paying attention. It isn’t that long ago that Mike Williamson got a three game retrospective ban after Johan Elmander ran into him at Bolton. Within a calendar month of this Wayne Rooney got no ban at all for sizing up Wigan’s James McCarthy before clattering him with an off the ball elbow. Alex Ferguson and Man Utd were so vocal in their support of Rooney that the Premier League didn’t dare do anything.
In contrast Pardew now spends his life teetering on egg shells trying to keep the professional and the enthusiastic amateur critics off his back. Good performances are apparently in spite of him but poor ones all his fault. He is also somehow answerable for the same regime that is making his job so difficult – little wonder that he lashes out from time to time.
The problem we have is that too many people have barely hidden agendas when it comes to attacking Alan Pardew and anything that happens on Mike Ashley’s watch at St James’ Park and as a consequence their testimony should be considered worthless. Yet we are forced to endure it and as a consequence I find myself sticking up for both of them despite my frustration with Pardew’s inability to cope with a derby or cup match and Ashley’s refusal to run our club properly. I simply can’t abide the injustice, which is one of the reasons I live in Norfolk now. I’m not entirely convinced about either our manager or owner but I know we are better off with them in charge than someone like me. If circumstance had led to me being responsible for the club statement after Hull it would have simply read; “If a member of the opposition enters the NUFC technical area during any match they must do so respectfully or we will f*** them up like a car crash.” Then I would have turned every seat in the entire press box over to some oppressed minorities.
I started with a question and I’ll end with another; what are we going to do if Newcastle play really well without a manager for the next 3 games?