I thought long and hard about the title of this post. I wasn't sure I wanted to give Alan Pardew the attention that I suspect he actually quite likes, but in the end, despite the same number of points being available, this game is more important to me than most others.
Alan Pardew's exploits at Charlton have been covered to death in many different places, and I have no desire to cover old ground again, but his presence does add a little bit of spice.
A recent article in Mail Online discussed both Pardew and Aidy Boothroyd and the fact that they were both the believed to be best young British managers a few years ago. A title, incidentally, once attributed to Steve McLaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 with the same players that, from the press this morning, might as well be given the World Cup right now as we are so obviously going to win it.
I think there is, probably always has been, a tendency to go over the top with success (and failure). I know it sells papers and probably increases the 'visitor count' on blogs like this one, but I think a much more reasoned approach is necessary.
For example, Boothroyd came in and saved Watford from relegation in 2005, then went on to win promoted the following season and was hailed as the best young manager. He was fielding questions from reporters about taking over at a big established Premier League club.
In truth I suspect he managed to get a side into the Premier League that was not exceptional and deserves some credit. However, you could spin that tale to say that he managed a side with Ashley Young to promotion and then just ran out of ideas. He took the Premier League TV money, plus £11m for Young, and built a squad that had no staying power and despite making it into the playoffs in 2008 was 'found out' in January and literally fell apart when it was discovered that there was no plan B.
The fact that Boothroyd was given a lucrative long term contract after just one full season as a manager could be seen as good planning on behalf of Watford, or staggering good luck by the man himself. It really depends on which view you take.
As for Pardew, you could argue that he has won promotion with both West Ham and Reading, and took the East London club to an FA Cup Final, and nearly won. In reality he was given excessive resources at Reading; he took over a club with excessive resources at West Ham; and the cup final was reached by beating four Premier League teams that had an average finish that season of 10.75, i.e. bottom half. His achievements at Charlton were a quick uplift in results after Les Reed left climbing out of the bottom three then falling back in again and being relegated.
The best demonstration of Pardew came for us in the Championship. His approach seems to have always been bring in more players to try to fix any problem. This will always work in the long term. If you are given sufficient resources to keep bringing in new players, in the end you will end up with a good enough side to beat everyone. The fact that you might need 200 players and a budget of £500m is the stumbling block.
Strangely all of Pardew's clubs have been big spenders compared to their peers. Reading and West Ham were, and for a while Charlton were splashing the cash in the Championship. The risk with this approach is that if you do not win sufficient success quickly enough (depending on the resources afforded to you) you end up having to sell players to balance the books. This is what happened at Charlton, and ever so nearly happened at West Ham. Pardew has since admitted that he gambled everything on West Ham winning promotion in the season they did. Had that failed (and remember then finished sixth, three points above Reading who lost their last three games) they would have had to sell players like we did last summer.
Pardew was referred to as a 'Cancer' at West Ham. I have no idea if that comment was professional or personal - I have heard rumours (just Pub talk) that Pardew was having an affair with one of the players' wives. Either way, when you take into account professional attitudes of players not slagging off their former managers, there was not a lot of positives from his time there.
Pardew came to Charlton talking about how good he was in the transfer market. Granted he did sign Hareward and Reo Coker, but he also signed a lot of players that did not move on for substantial profits.
Like I said earlier, if you bring in enough players, you will ultimately bring in a few decent ones as well as some dross. Bailey, Racon and Semedo look real class (all be it in the third division) but you have to take into account that he also signed Christensen, Dean Sinclair McLeod for £1.15m and Varney for £2m.
It's a little like cold calling people to sell them double glazing while they are watching Coronation Street. Most of the calls will be rubbish, but if you keep on dialing, in the end you will secure an appointment that will lead to a sale. What I find galling is the direct quite from Pardew in the article "I haven't introduced anything new here but I've gained some things that I've taken when I was out of work. I've taken one or two areas of those into this club and particularly recruitment. I felt it's always been my strength." I think Recruitment (of players) is actually one of Pardew's weaknesses. Having said that it is quite possibly one of his better attributes. I guess that says a lot about how much I rate the man, or not as the case may be!
Overall I think I am astonished that Pardew was given the job at Southampton in the first place, to give him an open cheque book is just staggering. I think he needed to hit the ground running and get back those ten points very quickly (rather like Leeds did two seasons ago). Now he is under pressure and immediately the rubbish that comes out of his mouth is going to sound like excuses to Saint's fans - something that it took me months to work out.
Anyway, to the game itself - Next... Southampton at home.
I expect an unchanged side. I expect us to play free flowing football with confidence and I expect us to create chances - many of them.
The big test is going to be if we can score early enough to add to the nervousness that the Saint's players will be feeling before the atmosphere on the day raises one or two of their players and they get a goal themselves.
There is no doubt that Pardew has bought in some good players (for this level) the fact that they are probably earning way too much for this division is irrelevant. What you will probably see, however, is that Pardew's team will reflect all the others he has built. There will be way too many resources in some areas and way too few in others. His tendency has always been to have too many strikers and too many midfielders and not enough defenders, but this time it could be different. I guess it will depend on just which players were available when he started shopping like a lottery winning Chav.
I suspect that the game will start on fire and we could well be two goals up inside the first ten minutes. If not I fear that the initial exertions of the players and fans alike will hand the impetus to Southampton to establish themselves more into the game. The pressure (due to the desire to win this game) may well be more of a burden than a benefit to the players if we don't score early.
My early predictions this season have been for wins as we should be too good for the teams in this division. Southampton did, however, finish above us last season, so I am less confident of a result. I think I'm also feeling more cautious as this game matters more to me than any of the others this season.
Thankfully Parkinson has a well balanced side with both quality and strength all over the park. This will be a test of the players' temperament and/or the managers ability to influence it.
With Leeds playing on Friday night I suspect that we will not be top at the start of the game, that might take some pressure off us, it might add some. Either way I am confident that we have what it will take to extend our run and finish top of the league at 5pm, and I would love it if we beat them, love it!.
Up the Addicks!