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Why it's unfair that Alan Pardew's comments have come back to haunt him
THE internet is a wonderful resource, but one of its inherent problems is that the past is only ever a click away.
Something that was said five, ten, even 20 years ago can be retrieved, reposted and presented as a diametric opposite to the present. Times and circumstances might change, but words are etched in the cyberspace equivalent of stone, enduring for decades on end.
That can be a particular problem for football managers, who get through so many comments in an average season that 'the truth' must always be regarded as a somewhat flexible concept.
Every time a manager speaks in a pre or post-match press conference, they are conversing with a wide range of constituencies. The fans, their players, the board of directors, the managers of opposing teams – all get a slightly different message depending on the circumstances at that precise moment.
Within a week, or even in a day in the helter-skelter of the transfer window, their words can be redundant. Yet thanks to the internet, they never completely disappear.
So as Newcastle United were busily adding to their growing French contingent this week, the world of social media was buzzing with some comments made by Alan Pardew when he was manager of West Ham United in 2006.
After Arsenal had failed to include a single English player in a Champions League game against Real Madrid, Pardew said: “I saw a headline saying Arsenal are flying the flag for Britain. I kind of wondered where that British involvement actually was when I looked at their team.
“It's important that top clubs don't lose sight of the fact that it's the English Premier League and English players should be involved. We have a young team at West Ham and we are proud to have so many Englishmen.”
Should a statement made in 2006 be used as an implicit criticism of Newcastle's current signing policy? Of course not. Yet it has been in some quarters, even though the world Pardew inhabits has completely changed.
Back then, he was attempting to defend a West Ham side that were attempting to kick on from mid-table with a group of largely English players. He was probably trying to score some points against Arsene Wenger and might even have been gently nudging his employers to continue with the investment model he had planned.
Either way, there was a context to the comments that simply does not exist now. Does that mean he believed in them in any less then? No. Does it mean he is not allowed to alter his opinion now that circumstances have changed? Almost seven years on, that would be ridiculous.
For a start, Pardew now finds himself as part of a wider recruitment team at Newcastle. He will have had a significant input into the acquisition of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran and Massadio Haidara, but he is no longer master of all he surveys.
Managing director Derek Llambias, chief scout Graham Carr and club secretary Lee Charnley are all influential figures when it comes to developing and enacting a recruitment policy, and the ultimate buck stops with owner Mike Ashley.
To a large degree, the model is devised from above and Pardew has to work within it. His views matter, but they are not the only ones to have been aired this month.
Yet even if the Newcastle boss was still to prefer an English core – and there is no contemporary evidence to suggest this is the case – there are valid financial and footballing reasons to justify the route he has taken.
In Mathieu Debuchy (£4.5m) and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (£6.7m), Newcastle have secured two established France internationals for a little over £11m. Tottenham wanted more than that for Michael Dawson alone. Middlesbrough received £3m for full-back Joe Bennett, and he had played in just one Premier League fixture.
Buying English players is hideously expensive, and a club like Newcastle, who are attempting to balance the books, cannot justify prioritising the domestic market above foreign leagues, particularly France's Ligue 1 where they have established deep and effective networks.
In an ideal world, perhaps we'd all love to follow Sir John Hall's model of “11 Geordies wearing the black-and-white shirt”, but that is simply not realistic. And even if it was, who is to say that English players would be more successful, committed or loyal than the French signings that have arrived this week? Nile Ranger is English, but would you really want 11 players like him in your team?
The proof will be in the pudding, but while there is a valid debate to be had about the effect of so many overseas players on the England national team, that is not a discussion that should trouble Pardew or Llambias, who are employed to do their best for Newcastle United.
The pair have assessed all the available options, and concluded that this is the best way to go at the moment. In seven years time, it might not be, so whatever Pardew says in the next few weeks should not be interpreted as a blueprint for all of his dealings in the future.
In the past, yesterday's newspaper used to be tomorrow's fish-and-chip wrapper. It's hard to package your cod in a computer screen, but when it comes to the world of online news, the same general principle should still apply.
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