11 December 2006

Pardew, part deux

If this is the way that Eggert Magnusson is going to run West Ham, then maybe Hammers fans should worry. Firing a gaffer who's achieved promotion, kept the team in the Premier League when they were predicted to go down, and reached the FA Cup final in the same year is, well, for lack of a better term, insane. It may have taken Pardew until the playoffs in 2005 to be fully accepted and appreciated by Hammers fans, as rumors swirled around his job from when he was hired until West Ham were promoted, but there's little to argue with in his record during the second attempt at the playoffs or in his first season as a Premiership manager.

It's now all set up nicely for Alan Curbishley to take over, and you can't help but wonder if that wasn't Magnusson's plan from the get-go. Ever since questions were first asked of Pardew during the woes to begin the season, Curbishley's name has come up. And Curbs has kept his name out of discussions for any other jobs, whether it was Villa before O'Neill was hired or Charlton after Dowie was sacked.

Curbs is known for his ability to make a relegation candidate into a mid-table side; look at how Charlton has fared since he left. However, West Ham's major problem this season has been bedding in new players like Tevez and Mascherano, while trying to deal with the drop in form of last season's main stars, such as Reo-Coker, Zamora, and Benayoun (as well as the injury to Dean Ashton, which can't be underestimated). I do not think they would be relegation candidates under normal circumstances, which this season certainly hasn't been.

I just don't see how Curbs, or any other candidate for that matter, will have more success with this endeavor than Pardew did. His job this season has been a throughly thankless task. First, the loss of Ashton. Subsequently, the takeover speculation. Then the Tevez/Mascherano ordeal, blending them in at the same time the rest of the squad is going through growing pains. Finally, most of that seems to be sorted; Magnusson buys West Ham, Tevez (but not Mascherano) is starting to settle, and the team, slowly but surely, is getting back to normal. Results haven't gotten that much better, with 3 straight losses, including a 4-0 battering they took at Bolton since winning their first game under Magnusson's watch. But looking at the talent, looking how players are slowly returning to form, knowing Ashton will soon return, and seeing Tevez slowly fit in, I would have thought that Pardew would have them out of the relegation battle by the end of January at the latest.

I don't blame Pardew for the whole Argentinean saga. Commentators so far today have claimed that Tevez and Mascherano's arrival was the beginning of his end, but bringing the boys to West Ham was completely Kia Joorabchian's idea. It was thought that he'd be the one to buy the club, and he wanted the two big-name players his consortium owned there as well. Pardew was, for all intents and purposes, forced to take and forced to play the lads. Mascherano hasn't been able to cut it at all yet, which is why Hayden Mullins has reclaimed his starting place, but Tevez is certainly starting to look handy. Not to mention it's completely unfair to expect two South Americans, of their age, to settle into the pace and style of the Premiership in less than half a season. The time scale, whether it's for managers to turn a team around or for players to settle in, is absolutely utterly out of whack and expectations must to be softened.

West Ham has never been known for firing managers quickly, especially not mid-season. It looks very, very bad when the first major act of a new owner is to fire a manager as beloved as Pardew, and after he's already claimed Pardew's job was safe.


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