Alan Pardew is the new boss at Newcastle United. After Mike Ashley decided to fire Chris Hughton it was always likely that the former West Ham manager would be appointed to fill the leadership void on Tyneside. Rumour has it (and it must be said again that this is strictly rumour) that he was seen dining with Ashley in a chichi London eatery the night before Hughton was turfed from his role at St. James' Park. The paucity of current top-class managerial options - even Alan Curbishley turned his nose up at the job - also suggested that Pardew could well be the man for the job.
The most curious part about this appointment is not that Hughton was fired, or even that his replacement comes straight from League One. The most interesting part is the length of contract endowed upon Pardew. The Newcastle hierarchy has seen fit to dish out a five-and-a-half year contract to the 49 year-old silvertail after refusing to commit to The Understated One (Hughton) for even one extra year following a string of good results. The writing on the wall was plain: Hughton was never going to get that contract renewal whether he earned it or not; if only for reasons unbeknownst to us all, he was not the man that Ashley wanted in charge.
The reason five-plus years is curious is that it comes directly after management stated there will be "no rewards for failure" on Tyneside. Alongside that came the standard owner's fare that every penny will be watched under the new gaffer. This implies that Ashley thought Hughton's tenure should be stamped "Fail". If winning the Championship in a canter and maintaining a healthy Premier league position is insufficient then Hughton is guilty. But it also says that whoever took on the job would be judged by the same standards and would have only the same cattle on hand. Perhaps it was shrewd negotiating by Pardew in demanding a five year deal, knowing Ashley could be counted on to lean in whichever way the wind blows. Or perhaps even more believably, Alan Pardew is simply that convincing a salesman that he pitched the Big Man on his features/advantages/benefits so well that Ashley bought the lot. If so, that's a trait not to be underestimated as all the best managers are first-class pitchmen, but Ashley didn't make his millions by being gullible so it is a long bow to draw.
Pardew has said his first thoughts were on maintaining the Magpies' Premiership status - a good start - but if he is to be judged by the same criteria that Hughton has been then he has a pitched battle on his hands. By committing to judge Pardew by the same standards by which he's axed The Understated One then surely Ashley has just offered over five years wages' to a man with a questionable history of achievement and will reward Pardew for whatever he bring to Tyneside: success, mediocrity or failure.
Whichever way you approach, it seems like Alan Pardew, through Mike Ashley's good humour, good eye-for-talent or poor judgement, has been rewarded before the results are in.