There were a few eyebrows raised last January when Alan Pardew left Newcastle for his old club, Crystal Palace.
Despite his previous fall outs with the Toon army, Pardew had guided the Magpies to a comfortable mid-table position while Palace were in a relegation scrap as he replaced Neil Warmock.
Clearly, the stick that Pardew had previously received from the Newcastle fans prompted his decision to leave and it was a decision that was vindicated as he guided the Eagles to a 10th placed finish with Newcastle only avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth on the last day of the season.
Pardew now says that outside of the top four, his new charges are a match for anyone and you’d have to say that on paper at least, that statement doesn’t look too outlandish. The signing of Yohan Cabaye for a club record £10m was a statement of intent and one that (assuming he stays fit) adds a new quality and steel to the Palace midfield.
The thing that Pardew says he has found most refreshing though, is the freedom he has been given over transfers. At Newcastle, he was clearly hamstrung – a policy that nearly cost Mike Ashley dearly.
‘I’ve been pretty frustrated [at Newcastle] in the last two or three years in the transfer market, so I’m pretty pleased this year,’ Pardew told BT Sport.
‘I said to Steve Parish, the chairman, that it was an important year for us to make a statement. It’s all well and good having those conversations but you need the backing.
‘This is the first time, and one of the reasons I came to this football club, I have full control with the chairman over transfers. I’m really pleased with the business we’ve done.
‘The thing about a football manager is he has a philosophy and a way of playing. At Newcastle, at times, it was difficult for me to implement the transfers into my agenda because the agenda was different.
‘Here the agenda is much easier for me. The chairman says I can buy to my philosophy, so we’re buying players like [Bakary] Sako and [Patrick] Bamford, Connor Wickham because I want us to go forward, I want us to be an exciting team.’
With the likes of Zaha and Bolasie now bolstered by Sako, Bamford and to a lesser extent (in my opinion) by Wickham, the Palace forward line now has plenty of options with Murray and Gayle already in place.
Whatever happens on Saturday, I think that Palace will have a decent season. The league as a whole has got better and better, making it harder than ever before for a newly promoted side to stay up in their first season after promotion.
The suggestion in some quarters is that the signing of Cabaye played a part in persuading the likes of Bamford, Sako and Wickham to join Pardew’s revolution and there may well be something to that comment.
‘Sako and Bamford, in particular, had lots of options,’ Pardew added. ‘One [Sako] was a free transfer so he had clubs queuing up; Bamford, of course, was a massive success at Middlesbrough and he had four or five Premiership clubs interested in him.
‘What I hope to do with Bamford is harden him up. He’s had a bit of a soft run in my opinion, everything’s gone his way. Well it’s not going to go his way here, he’s going to have to fight to get into the team. I think that will be good for him.
‘You can’t underestimate his talent, he’s a real talented striker and one we’re really hopeful for. They could have easily chosen other Premiership sides.
‘Maybe the signing of Cabaye has impacted on those two transfers. They might not even be here without him and that’s the kind of statement that Cabaye is.’
Bamford was reported as being a target for the Canaries up until he joined Palace but there would be many reasons for him to join the Eagles instead of City or other clubs for that matter. The location being a major one as he is able to play Premier League football in London at a side that look as though they won’t be fighting a relegation battle.
Alan Pardew is a bit of a pantomime villain and I’m no fan of his at all, ever since he rubbished City’s promotion chances while West Ham manager back in 2004. Since then though I must admit (begrudgingly) that he has forged a decent managerial career and with his new side he has put together a very effective looking squad.
Time will tell of course but after Saturday’s opener at Carrow Road, I reckon Palace will be a threat to any side they face.