Pardew back from the brink
. . . as Mourinho plays down title talk
London — Six weeks ago, with newcastle United in the Premier League’s relegation zone and still looking for a first win of the season, Alan Pardew seemed highly unlikely to reach his fourth anniversary as manager in december.
Maverick club owner Mike Ashley, the billionaire founder of sportswear firm Sports direct, was under siege from fans demanding Pardew’s head and there were regular noisy protests at both home and away games.
For once, however, in the volatile world of football where trigger-happy chairman fire at the first sign of trouble, a manager has been given time to fight his way out of trouble.
Sunday’s 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle’s fifth successive win in all competitions, lifted them to within two points of the top four and means Pardew has every reason to believe he will still be in charge next month.
Having been sacked by three of his four previous clubs, West Ham United, Charlton Athletic and Southampton, the former Crystal Palace midfielder had to face down opposition from the start as a surprise appointment in december 2010.
He seemed to have won them over by lifting newcastle, who have not won a major trophy since 1969, into fifth place at the end of his first full season in May 2012.
That earned him two Manager of the Year awards in England and took the club back into European competition.
Rumblings were heard from supporters when the north-eastern club slumped to 16th place a year later and last season they were well-placed at the halfway stage but suffered from losing outstanding French midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Paris St Germain.
Amid media reports that he had two matches to save his job, Pardew won both, but incurred a seven-game ban for headbutting an opposition player, Hull City’s david Meyler.
Losing seven of the final eight games of the season to finish 10th meant he needed a good start to this season to restore any faith but with striker Papiss Cisse and new signing Siem de Jong injured, newcastle were bottom after five games.
It was mid-october before their first win, at home to Leicester City, but that became the first of five in succession, with close-season signing Ayoze Perez from Tenerife scoring three in four games.
The way he back-heeled the opening goal at West Brom on Sunday was indicative of the confidence flowing through the side. “We find ourselves right up the league where a club of this size should be,” Pardew told Sky Sports afterwards.
“After a difficult start we were looking at statistics and they weren’t suggesting we were in the position we should have been in.
“It is difficult to say that when you are under so much pressure and the fans are almost revolting.
“We have got a really young team, quite an exciting team and it is very nice to manage.”
All of which was difficult to believe just a couple of months ago.
Meanwhile, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho refused to entertain talk of an unbeaten season after seeing his side strengthen their position at the Premier League summit by winning 2-1 at Liverpool.
diego Costa’s 67th-minute goal gave Chelsea victory at Anfield last Saturday, helping his side extend an unbeaten league run stretching back to March and fuelling comparisons with Arsenal’s 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’.
But Mourinho believes that suggestions his team could emulate that Arsenal side by going through an entire season without losing a game are fanciful.
“No chance,” he said when asked about his side’s prospects of avoiding defeat between now and May 24.
“It’s possible to be champions. We want to play for that, but in modern football I don’t believe in going unbeaten all season.
“One day we will lose, but the next game we will win again. We will play badly, but we will recover our game because we are a strong team.
“We a stable team, but I have been in the game so long I know the defeat will arrive and the bad moment will arrive. We will be ready for that. We believe in everyone. We are a happy camp. We believe in the players.”
Victory moved Chelsea 15 points above Liverpool, who finished runners-up in the league last season and had appeared likely to win the title before losing this corresponding fixture late in the campaign.
However, Mourinho is not ready to discount the threat posed by Brendan Rodgers’s club or claim that the title race will be a comfort- able one.
“If this was the Spanish league or German league or Portuguese league, when you have two teams trying to become champions, then you are almost there with 15 points,” he said.
“But this is England. Every match is difficult. In England, you can lose points in every game. It’s not (just) about Liverpool; it’s Man City, Man United, Arsenal, it’s about Tottenham, it’s about Southampton.
“We are in a good situation. We have played the four games in Manchester, Everton, Liverpool, City, United. Four very hard matches. But it’s only the start of november.”
Mourinho saw Gary Cahill cancel out Emre Can’s opening goal before Costa slammed home the winner and he paid special tribute to midfielders Ramires and Cesc Fabregas, both of whom played through injury.
Rodgers, whose side failed with a strong late penalty claim against Cahill for handball, has endured a difficult week that also featured a league loss at newcastle United and Champions League defeat at Real Madrid.
He was widely criticised for resting key players in the game at Madrid with a view to the Chelsea encounter, but he insisted he would do the same thing again if the situation arose.
“I’d hopefully win all three games,” said Rodgers when asked if he would do anything differently if given the chance.
“But we plan the players and the team the best we can, so I wouldn’t do anything differently at all. We just didn’t get the results. Hopefully, this will be an experience for us and we will use that to be better going forward.”
Rodgers was also booed by large sections of the Anfield crowd when he replaced the popular Philippe Coutinho in the second half, in a rare sign of disapproval by home supporters towards their manager. I didn’t feel we were creating enough and had to change the momentum,” he explained.
“The supporters here are a big part of what we’re doing. of course they will be frustrated. They have seen us lose three games this week. I totally understand that, it is not an issue. They give us great support and it is just frustration all round.” — SAPA-AFP
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho newcastle United manager alan Pardew