AFTER a depressing start to 2014, its was perhaps inevitable that Newcastle’s biggest win so far this year has come with a moment of scarcely believable controversy.
With 20 minutes to go of a 4-1 victory away at Hull City, manager Alan Pardew was inexplicably seen to be headbutting home midfielder David Meyler. This led to a yellow card for the Tigers midfielder, who had pushed Pardew out the way just before the incident in question, and a dismissal from the touchline for Pardew.
Clearly, this is not an incident that is going to go unnoticed either by the FA, who have said an investigation is pending, or by sports commentators, who have displayed condemnation and outrage from virtually the moment the incident was beamed out live on international news.
Within moments of referee Kevin Friend and fourth official Howard Webb dismissing Pardew from the field of play, outrage was queued up and scorn poured in the direction of the Newcastle manager.
The club have also said they don’t stand by his behaviour. It was confirmed during Match of the Day that Newcastle United fining Pardew £100,000 and an official warning for his repeatedly poor behaviour.
This, after all, comes less than two months after he was seen calling Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini “a f***ing old ****” on the touchline during an ill-tempered clash on Tyneside. He has also previously been in trouble for pushing over the fourth official, nearly started a riot on the touchline against Sunderland almost exactly two years ago, and once famously had to be separated from fighting Arsene Wenger after celebrating an 89th minute winner a bit too vigorously.
Former Newcastle star striker and manager Alan Shearer said this latest indiscretion could force him to resign, but it is very unlikely this move will force the man in the dugout to voluntarily depart. After all, this would mean forfeiting a major pay-off – he is still contracted until 2020, after all – and a serious damage to credibility that has been back in a positive light this year after a dreadful 2012-13 campaign.
Naturally, such an incident is a severe blow to his credibility. After all, French international legend Zinedine Zidane is associated with his infamous headbutt during the 2006 World Cup Final as much as he is with any piece of skill he managed as a footballer.
Meyler’s role in the incident is certainly not that of a saint to Pardew’s sinner. The midfielder did push Pardew first, which gave the Newcastle manager invitation to respond.
But once again, he opted to respond with less-than-gentlemanly conduct. While all-out conflict similar to the defeat at Wigan last season was avoided, Pardew will not evade hearings into his conduct.
Naturally, the reaction has been over the top – partly down to the fact sports reporting is about the intense reporting of ‘crisis’ moments, but also the fact this is certainly a moment out of the ordinary. Its certainly disappointing that a fantastic away-day result for the Magpies will be remembered less for some majestic Tim Krul saves, a good, powerful drive from Moussa Sissoko or Vurnon Anita’s first Premier League goal, and instead for this latest stupidity.
Despite this, it would be a bold move for Newcastle owner Mike Ashley to be willing to part with so much of his cash to pay-off the substantial wages of Pardew’s deal over his remaining six years over the incident. It would also be an odd decision – while an out-and-out assault would warrant his dismissal, this transgression is not quite in the same league.
However, while it would probably not resemble grounds for dismissal, the Newcastle manager must still face sanctions. Whatever Alan Pardew was thinking, it is not something he can get away with in a hurry. A five/six game touchline ban and hefty FA fine to go with his club one is probably the expected minimum, while the probability of a stadium ban similar to the one imposed on ex-Blackpool manager Paul Ince earlier this season may not be out of the question.
This may well have come with a wild overreaction, but if anything, a wild overreaction is what has left Pardew with a significant problem that could have huge repercussions.