His game wasn’t on television, at least not in England, but Alan Pardew didn’t care about that. The sign of a true showman is that the performance never stops, and we can be fairly certain that Pardew is always Pardew even when he’s alone, luxuriating in a bubble-filled tub after another long week. There he lies, calling out the rubber duck, imploring the bubble bath to give him a smile, headbutting the loofah.
So the fact that the rest of the country was watching the North London derby didn’t give him pause for a moment. There were forty-odd thousand Liverpool fans and one bemused Liverpool manager, all staring at him in confusion and horror, and he wasn’t about to let them down. There’s the ball. Kick it away! There’s Jurgen Klopp. Stick your hand in his face! There’s Crystal Palace beating Liverpool. Oh. Well, that’s nothing special. Even Neil Warnock managed that.
There are better managers than Pardew knocking around the Premier League. There are more successful managers. There are more important managers as well, managers whose names will resonate throughout footballing history; come the final reckoning. Pardew, barring something extraordinary, will probably fall somewhere between a footnote and an aside. Which isn’t an insult. We at the Diary, as you can see in our recently published book that would make an ideal Christmas gift for literally anybody, are huge fans of footnotes.
But while he’s not going to shape the world in the manner of, say, Jose Mourinho, he might perhaps be able to lay claim to something stranger, something grander. They don’t give out a trophy for it, but Pardew might just be the perfect Premier League manager. If you like your conclusions conceptually muddled but alphabetically pleasing, you could say he was the avatar of the zeitgeist. We’d understand if you didn’t want to.
Anyway, consider this: He is brash. He is spiky. He is entirely convinced of his own magnificence. He might not describe himself as the best manager in the world—at least not on the record—but you just know that he’d be thinking it. He is also vulgar, in a simultaneously off-putting and compelling way.
If the Premier League were a person, then it would definitely tell Manuel Pellegrini to shut his noise—despite Pellegrini being the least noisy football manager in the history of the game—and it would definitely allegedly steal a colleague’s dinner on the basis that it looks nicer. But however you feel about the Premier League (“tired”?), it functions; it spits out football and it sucks in attention and money. And similarly, Pardew-at-Palace works. We don’t mean to insult the players, but like an owner with a dog, a resemblance has bloomed between manager and team. Quick and tricky wingers, the slickness of Yohan Cabaye and a couple of big lumps at the back. Palace are fun to watch as a neutral, but irritating to face as an opponent. They’re not the best team in the league—in a neat bit of symmetry, Palace have won all their games against teams beneath them in the table, and haven’t won a single one against a team above—but they are admirable in their lack of respect for their nominal betters.
Which leads on the obvious question: What if Pardew gets the England job? We don’t necessarily want him away from Selhurst Park, since his team is fun and beating Liverpool is an excellent habit to get into, but the prospect of Pardew taking his abrasive stylings on tour is a tempting one. England won’t ever win anything, so it is imperative that the team fails to win anything in as entertaining a fashion as possible. This is not something that comes naturally to Roy Hodgson, but we can’t help but feel that Pardew might be a natural. Just imagine him come the summer, strolling up and down the touchlines of a major tournament. Calling out Jogi Low. Imploring Michel Platini to give him a smile. Headbutting Fuleco.
After all, that’s how football’s supposed to work. Do well at home, then do it for England. Pardew exemplifies the Premier League. It’s only right and fair that at some point soon, the FA gives him the chance to give it the big one for his country.
Imagine if Mesut Ozil had …
Now, about that North London derby. Tottenham was very good for an hour, then a bit knackered, and Arsenal was mostly rubbish but nicked a draw. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Mesut Ozil showed yet more evidence of his genius, creating a goal for Kieran Gibbs with a pass so beautiful that Hugo Lloris had no choice but to chuck the ball into his own net. By doing so, Ozil set a new record for most consecutive Premier League games with an assist, a record that certainly isn’t wholly meaningless and definitely isn’t only a thing because Arsenal fans are, as ever, complete and total Arsenal fans. We can only wonder how many records Ozil would set if he had a decent striker to aim at.
Remi Garde is a Frenchperson
Finally, Aston Villa, who we hope will soon be called to account for their crimes.
Sacking notable Englishperson Tim Sherwood was one thing. But replacing him with a Frenchperson was a step too far. Then, as if to double down on their sedition, Villa’s powers that be allowed that Frenchperson to drop several Englishpersons from the team and replace them with other Frenchpersons. Finally, just to truly spit in the face of Britannia, that distinctly French team only went and got a point against the best team in the country. The concept of English superiority has taken such a battering since … since …
… since whatever happened the hour before. We forget now. It all passes by so quickly. The point is: Apologize to the Queen immediately, Randy Lerner. Apologize, then report to the Tower.