Questions asked about Pardew’s commitment?
Allardyce’s comments have made back page headlines this morning. Speaking about the weekend’s fixtures he openly questioned the ability and desire of certain Premier League managers in motivating their players as the season draws to a close. Some are claiming it was a thinly veiled message to Alan Pardew who takes his Crystal Palace side to St James Park on Saturday.
“Newcastle will win on Saturday. I’d have a bet on that if I could. Palace are in the FA Cup final and they would all have been celebrating, they would all have been on the pop”
“They won’t be mentally ready for it and neither will Alan [Pardew], because he’ll be thinking about the final now, not thinking about Newcastle away”
Big Sam has every right to question the motivation of a Crystal Palace side who booked their place in the final last weekend but seem to have switched off in the league since Christmas. Some are claiming Palace’s cup run has hit their league form. The fact is, their league form was suffering long before they reached the latter stages of the FA Cup, with only one win since December. Allardyce further questioned the ability of the managers whose sides may yet decide who gets relegated, saying
“It’s down to the managers. Do the managers want to motivate the players. Do they demand from the players or do they not”
It’s a curious feature of Alan Pardew’s managerial record that a lack of staying power and alarming slumps are nothing new. For a man with the almighty mental strength and hide to patrol the St James Park touchline while all around Newcastle fans were taunting him, setting up websites and unveiling banners calling for him to go, it is an oddity.
Seemingly even more absurd were his quotes yesterday in speaking of his hopes for the former club whose fans despised him. Speaking on Sky Sports he said he was “desperate” for Newcastle to stay up and that he “loved managing Newcastle”.
However, it may well just be his way of trying to partially bury a hatchet which may yet lodge itself in his back in the atmosphere at St James' Park on Saturday.
There remains a bulk of Newcastle fans who lay a large portion of the blame for the club’s current predicament at Pardew's door. In an interview with the Chronicle, the former 'Pardew out' campaigners point to his acquiescence in accepting the limited ambition of Mike Ashley’s reign and that the embedded acceptance of failure has pervaded the club since he left.
If that isn’t motivation enough for Pardew to rev his Palace players up, nothing will be.
The end of the Rotten Core?
Asked about the improved feeling around Sunderland in recent months, Allardyce is under no illusions about how it has happened, saying it is simply down to;
“how many people have been shipped out and how many people we’ve brought in to create a better atmosphere. That better atmosphere has created better performances and we’ve bought in better players than what we had in January”.The existence of some sort of shadowy ‘rotten core’ at Sunderland has been hinted at by several former managers and has been the subject of much speculation by fans in recent years and we don’t need to revisit the tales here.
Maybe it is suffice to ponder those faces who have left the club since Christmas, particularly the more senior players amongst them.
That said, the atmosphere at the club is plain for all to see and what is striking from a fan’s point of view is the improved relationship between players and supporters. From the good vibe around the Supporter’s Association Player of the Season this week to #teamkone on twitter, it all adds to the positivity around Allardyce who retains a huge mandate from the fans despite the club’s league position.
The task still remaining
Talking about the magnitude of the task which still remains to avoid relegation, Allardyce is wary of tomorrow’s game against Stoke saying “everyone thinks Stoke is going to be easy, I think it is going to be really hard”. Asked about his game plan he said
“we must take risks to try and win the game, because I think we need to win it…to stay in the position we are in”
Commenting on the relative run-ins of Sunderland, Newcastle and Norwich he said he considers ours to the toughest, but that the aim is;
“to get as many wins as we can and not rely on the last game if we possibly can, win the next 3 games and not rely on Watford. We are capable of winning them if we play at our best”
We're in for another nerve-shredding weekend.