Alan Pardew at West Brom shows manager merry-go-round still turns
With Alan Pardew back in management at West Bromwich Albion, the Premier League's old boys' network has found another placement for one of its members.
Back after almost a year out of the game following his sacking by Crystal Palace on Dec. 23 last year, his appointment is a case of English football continuing to be a case of who you know.
Nick Hammond, West Brom's technical director, was given his start in coaching by former-teammate-turned-manager Pardew at Reading in 1998. When Tony Pulls was sacked last Monday, Pardew's association with Hammond put him in pole position, give or take a reported approach to recently sacked West Ham manager Slaven Bilic.
Having convinced chairman John Williams and received the approval of owner Lai Guochuan, Pardew is back in the game.
"We were impressed with what he had to say and what he has to offer," Williams said in the statement that announced Pardew's fifth Premier League appointment.
Only Sam Allardyce, set for his seventh club with Everton set to appoint the man who succeeded Pardew at Palace, has had more Premier League jobs. Pardew, 56, is a leading figure in the set of veteran bosses who have a hold over the owners of the division's lesser lights and are now set to manage four of the current bottom five.
Between them, Allardyce, West Ham's David Moyes, Crystal Palace's Roy Hodgson and Pardew have lost 584 Premier League games, ahead of Wednesday's fixtures. It is not just foreign coaches being kept out of new positions, but also young English coaches; that quartet of over-50s outnumber the 40s club of Eddie Howe, Paul Clement and Sean Dyche.
A frequent presence in TV studios, Pardew maintained his public profile while out of management but had to be patient. The longer a manager is out of the game, the less likely he is to return. But unlike fellow West Ham and Charlton boss Alan Curbishley, in the wilderness since leaving West Ham in 2008, or someone like David O'Leary, who has not worked in English football since being sacked by Aston Villa in 2006, Pardew, well-connected and well-liked within the game, has always found a way back in after being deposed at West Ham, Charlton, Newcastle and Palace.
Like Moyes, with West Ham his fourth Premier League job after disastrous reigns at Manchester United and Sunderland, and Hodgson, tasked with rescuing Palace in his fifth Premier League role after England's Euro 2016 failure, Pardew's previous failings have been overlooked by his new employers.
At Crystal Palace, fans and executives were on the side of a manager whose South London roots were frequently evoked, but six wins in the calendar year of 2016 condemned him to that Christmas exit. Up at Newcastle from 2010 to 2014, he had nowhere near the same moral support. Fans derided him as an associate of owner Mike Ashley, and aside from the 2011-12 season where he led the club to fifth in the table and won the League Managers' Association Manager of the Year, he was unpopular on Tyneside.
The "Pardiola" nickname he acquired during that brief year of success eventually became ironic but it is that lifting of morale, in evidence at each of West Ham, Newcastle and Palace before things went wrong, is what West Brom are hoping for. Once safety was not guaranteed, Pulis' reign was loathed by fans at The Hawthorns, where there was an angry gloom in the air when a 4-0 defeat by Chelsea ended his reign on Nov. 18.
Pardew can be a positive presence, his self-possession often buoying those around him, and giving rise to streaks of good results before the bluster loses its lustre. That, for now, will do for West Brom, whose sole goal this season has become survival.
In "looking forward to getting to work with what I consider to be a talented group of players" Pardew addressed what had become a problem for Pulis, whose methods of rigorously drilling his charges had stopped working.
There is quality in a West Brom squad featuring players like Jonny Evans, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Salomon Rondon, and Pardew once coaxed regularly excellent performances from the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko at Newcastle and Wilfried Zaha and Jason Puncheon at Palace.
Unlike Pulis, Pardew will give flair players their chance to shine, making himself a rather different prospect to his predecessor. Even within the cartel of British managers that keep landing Premier League jobs, there can be significant differences.