Stronger than last year?
After a week of silence, Pardew has spoken. Mixed messages are emanating from St James` Park.
Following his one man tribute to Simon and Garfunkel, the Sound of Silence has been broken by Pardew. According to some reports, he did indeed have a discussion with his Chairman, Derek Llambias. It is easy to imagine that Pardew started the conversation on 1st September with the famous greeting "hello darkness my old friend".
The clarion from Wearside led with the headline "Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew insists team is stronger than a year ago". The Chronicle provided clarification that the manager believes the team to be stronger than at the end of last season.
It is worth reviewing the summer`s activity to see the real picture.
In goal, we still have Harper and Krul, the latter having become ostensibly the number 1. It does seem logical that the older player is past his peak whilst the younger Tim Krul has suddenly become a more marketable commodity after performing admirably for his national side. In the meantime, Elliott has arrived as cheap cover.
Defensively, Sol Campbell left, not to have been replaced. Jose Enrique was seen to be a revelation last season, arguably among the best left backs in the Premier League and certainly making a positive impact on Merseyside. He has been replaced by a player even younger than jose was on his arrival.
Davide Santon had been heaped with praise earlier in his career. Knee injuries had curtailed his activity to the extent that his parent club sent him out on loan last season, having apparently spent as much time playing on the right side as the position that he has been signed for.
At first sight, it seems that Pardew was not talking about defence.
Up front, Kuqi has made the trip to the North West with Oldham, his replacement being Demba Ba. Yet to impress, Ba has been reported as still having a hunger for goals, that hunger being accentuated by his Ramadan fast that lasted through pre-season friendlies and Premier League appearances of little value. Best and Ranger are still here after being touted around the market place.
Midfield has seen the greatest changes. Gabriel Obertan has come in with Routledge making way. Obertan has made fewer league appearances for Manchester United in the last 2 seasons than Routledge did at St James` last year but it could be reasonably argued that a reserve from the champions is potentially stronger than a reserve from the 12th placed also-rans.
Out is leading scorer for last season, Kevin Nolan. In his place is Johan Cabaye. The Frenchman seemed well behind Premier league pace in his first game but has started to adapt. Time will tell but Cabaye is certainly a winner, just as Cacapa was when he signed for the Magpies from the French champions.
Next Monday`s adversary, player of the year Joey Barton has also left for a more ambitious club. Marveaux could be argued to be Joey`s replacement. He was sidelined for much of the last campaign with a groin injury whilst Joey proved himself capable of being a pain in the backside, both to opponents and apparently NUFC senior management.
It is debatable as to whether the squad is any stronger. However, the local media are back to peddling the positives for Ashley and Llambias.
The Guardian have provided a much more interesting take on Pardew`s first press briefing for a week. It seems that rather than toeing the company line, finally he recognises what supporters have seen in the last few windows: "The criticism that's going to come from not getting a striker in has some validity to it because seven months is a long time", expanded in the Mail as "with the time scale we had, we should have got a striker".
Llambias made his statement last week, already commented on by Tott. It appears that the manager also shares supporters` reservations.
Just to clarify, Pardew is quoted as going on to say: "But I can only say that from my point of view, we put the targets in front of the board and then it comes down to financial decisions, and that financial decision didn't take place. We bid for three or four players to fill one position and none of them came to fruition, and that's the disappointment that we have to face."
Finally we have some honesty from the manager. Perhaps he wishes to achieve the sort of cult status that will get him sacked, after all, that does seem to be the most lucrative part of a manger`s contract. Perhaps it is a way of getting in his excuses early, after all, he has had an opportunity to develop them in the past.
Curiously, he has been away scouting. Would we be back in the market in January - "Absolutely. Yes, absolutely." Yes Alan, we have heard the promises before, including from you. Surely you must know by now how much they mean. Do the names Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique mean anything to you? At least anything in January is a contribution towards the £35m that Pardew alleged he was promised for reinvestment in the team.
Whatever the cockney mafia are up to, whether Pardew has become the grass or is merely a red herring due to swim with the managerial fishes, the script is far more fascinating than East Enders.