Around 384BC a man emerged who would define much of Western Civilisation’s fabric. He strolled around Classical Greece, tutoring Alexander the Great before he conquered the known world and defined philosophy on his various endeavours.
While concerning himself with what makes a human life and a whole society go well, what makes people happy and why do we need friends, Aristotle also focused on luck and chance.
The Pythagoreans, Socrates, and Plato had argued the concept doesn’t exist and while Aristotle does not argue that there is some presiding element over physics called ‘luck’ he does focus on cause and effect and that some causes can be labelled “lucky.”
Essentially, Aristotle outlined four causes that led to an effect. But in addition there is an accidental cause. In general there is an element of human intent, a willing decision.
The effect will happen out of necessity or it will happen because it happens regularly, but events that are coincidental and just simply occur, he argued, are down to chance.
Basically events are caused by specific preceding events but certain events can be defined as lucky while still related to human action and decision.
In 1961, a man emerged who would have slightly dissimilar ideas about chance. He strolled around Surrey playing non-league football and working as a glazer before graduating towards the First Division and eventually pursuing a career in management. Alan Pardew offers a different notion on the influence of chance.
Consistently in interviews and programme notes he refers to the breaks, those pivotal moments that can define a season. Some go against you, some go for you. It’s out of your control.
Pardew wrote last week that “unlike Leicester we have been unfortunate to lose key players for long periods, while the fine margins that decide games in this league have also gone against us too often in recent months.”
When appearing on Graham Hunter’s podcast, suitably titled ‘pivotal moments’ Pardew said:
Great managers still need the breaks now and again you can say you have to earn them or whatever reason or your preparation was such etc. etc. but you still need the breaks. I’m sure we’ve lost some unbelievably great managers because that day didn’t go and I’ve had a few moments.
Pivotal moments, at Newcastle I had them when I could have lost my job, I also feel I could have won the Europa league at Newcastle, because the game against Benfica, we should have won. Ben Arfa has a chance for 2-0 before they score and it would have been game over, they wouldn’t have come back from that. They went on the final against Chelsea.
You get moments, the FA Cup Final, I’m looking at Benetiz on the side-line, as a manger, he’s done. I can see him, he knew, he was preparing his speech for the defeat. These are moments that change careers.
Now if I had won the FA Cup then where would I be now, would my personality be different, bit of glory at that stage, gone on to a big club success or not success. I might not be where I am now. These things sometimes happen for a reason.
The only problem with Pardew’s line of thinking is that for these moments to be defined by chance, they have to be independent, freak occurrences. To his credit, he applies this logic to a portion of his success as well. But by in large it’s a vehicle deployed to abstain him from his failures.
A bright beginning at Reading ended acrimoniously when they refused to allow him to talk to West Ham. He resigned and started brightly with the Hammers, reaching a play-off final in his first season before progressing to gain promotion.
This bright start ended in 2006 after the clubs form collapsed and endured their worst run of defeats in over 70 years. He was sacked in mid-December.
This trend of a bright start and later collapse would re-emerge. Pardew stint at Charlton saw him incapable of halting their relegation before a mid-table finish in the championship. They then slipped into the bottom three in 2008-2009 and Pardew left by mutual consent.
Pardew was at Southampton for 2009-2010 but proved unable to achieve promotion from League one due to a ten point deduction. He did however win the Football League Trophy. This too ended poorly after he fell out with Chairman Nicola Cortese.
Newcastle quickly followed when Pardew took over mid-season and achieved a 12th place finish. The following season saw him win manager of the year as French signings Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux and Demba Ba propelled them forward.
A further raid on the French market brought Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko however at the turn of the season, Newcastle suffered a complete collapse losing 15 out of 21 games.
Pardew was hounded. In the face of persistent protests and cries for his sacking and a website called ‘sackpardew.com’ he stayed at the helm.
This form continued until November 2014 when Newcastle recovered and went on a six game run. In December 2014 Warnock left Crystal Palace.
As Aristotle indicates, a large portion of the effect is initiated by the human decision in the cause. Pardew can say Leicester are lucky for avoiding injuries, thus ignoring the significant medical work done at the club and impressive physiques of the squad.
Pardew can look at the success of another club and define it as luck, or perhaps it’s down to the unperturbed atmosphere certain clubs instil while at times his actions on the side-line ensure a much different atmosphere.
Pardew’s belief is more appealing. The purity offered by attaching oneself to the belief that fellow professionals or competitors are simply benefactors of circumstance, timing and ‘fortunate breaks’ is incredibly easier than admitting they are more talented.
But by that very token, you will never become their rival. If one ignores the areas they clearly need to improve, and instead relaxes comfortable in the belief they have just been unlucky, progression is impossible.
Great managers instantly trust their approach, their methods, their beliefs will cause their team to be successful. Aristotle credits the existence of luck but remained steadfast in one’s ability to manipulate it.
One wonder’s does Pardew even contemplate such a reality.