Despite a £100,000 fine and the promise of more punitive punishment to come, one can’t help but feel Alan Pardew is an extremely lucky man. For at what other institution would the evermore ornery antics of a senior employee be tolerated than at the never-ending punch line that is Newcastle United Football Club?
In fact, so in keeping with the club’s tradition of unedifying buffoonery was Saturday’s head-butt by Pardew on Hull City’s David Meyler, that it’s easy to imagine owner Mike Ashley drunkenly high-fiving the Toon boss when next the pair meet up over a game of Black Jack in the after-hours East End casino where their professional (as it were) relationship was born.
In the context of Pardew’s many past misdemeanours Saturday’s thuggish and cowardly act would, one suspects, have proved one embarrassment too many for most owners, for whom the assault of an opposing player would have been an act anathema to the beliefs and values of their clubs. But such is Pardew’s luck that he happens to find himself managing the one club for whom beliefs and values have been conspicuously absent for the better part of a quarter century.
Going as far back as the nineties Newcastle have long been the football joke that just keeps on giving. Who can forget former owners Freddie Sheppard and Douglas Hall describing record scorer Alan Shearer as Mary Poppins before mocking fans for buying over-priced merchandise and labelling the city’s women “dogs” – all opinions proffered from the cosy confines of a Spanish brothel.
Equally memorable the sight of former teammates Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer fighting among themselves on the pitch and, indeed, the umpteen other rows between players and managers that the club have seen fit to play out in public such as Souness vs Bellamy, Shearer vs Barton and Gullit vs Shearer? Throw in the lager-chugging director’s box antics of current owner Ashley, some horse-punching fans, a porridge-serving midfielder and the unique comedy stylings of Joe Kinnear (or ‘Joe Fuckin’ Kinnear’, as his Fleet Street foes not unreasonably christened him after a series of expletive-laden public outbursts) and in truth, Pardew is merely preserving the reputation Newcastle have so painstakingly and hilariously cultivated over the past few decades.
In fact, so imbedded is the culture of slapstick at Newcastle that recent rumours of a proposed takeover by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) supremo Vince McMahon have been generally welcomed by fans who see the prospect of their club being in the hands of a man more synonymous with make-up and silicon than a dozen red light districts, as preferable to the current incumbents.
As for Pardew’s latest indiscretion, it’s not clear as to why it has prompted the most vociferous outrage yet, as, in truth, it’s debatable as to whether it even makes the top three in his own personal Hall of Shame. Many would view his push of an official, sustained attempt to inflict physical harm on Arsene Wenger or foul-mouthed and nakedly ageist attack on Manuel Pellegrini as being deserving of greater levels of opprobrium. Indeed, had any of the aforementioned incidents been perpetrated by a fan and not a manager, it’s inconceivable that a lifelong banning order would not have long since been issued.
Despite the obvious mirth Newcastle generate for fans of rival clubs, it’s difficult not to retain a degree of sympathy for their long-suffering supporters (well, the non-equine bothering ones anyway.) Whilst clubs such as Spurs, Aston Villa and Manchester City have at various times been subject to similar levels of ridicule, all have enjoyed pockets of success, such as Spurs’ run of FA Cup wins from the 60’s to the 90’s; Villa’s League and European Cup wins in the early eighties and Man City’s current success.
For the Newcastle fan, though, in sixty years there has been no such oasis, just evermore inhospitable, arid desert, through which they seem destined to forever traverse, not on the backs of camels, but rather on blind, hopeless donkeys.
Thankfully for the rest of us there’s scant chance of Newcastle getting their act together any time soon, so while Pardew may spend a few weeks on the naughty step, we can rest assured he’ll soon return to inject yet another dose of farce into the Premier League’s greatest comedy troupe as they prepare for their next hilarious act. And with Newcastle United Football Club we can be sure there’ll always be a next hilarious act.