By Rob Stewart
Newcastle United might have ended the season on a low point with defeat to Everton meaning they will miss out on Champions League football, but Magpies manager Alan Pardew is still Goal UK's Manager of the Season in a landslide victory after a stunning campaign.
The Toon Army may have had their top-four hopes dashed on the final day but the fans know that they can look forward with optimism thanks to Pardew after he steered the club to an unlikely fifth-place finish.
The fact that Europa League football now beckons at the Sports Direct Arena is the most surprising story to have emerged this season and that is down to Pardew, who has guided Newcastle into the upper echelons of the Premier League after a summer of uncertainty that made many predict relegation for a club synonymous with volatility.
That there was such pessimism was due to the fact that Newcastle had an awful close-season, with leading lights such as Kevin Nolan and Jose Enrique sold before the season started, and Joey Barton moved on to Queens Park Rangers following a dressing-room rant after being overlooked as captain in a friendly at Leeds.
For many, the 50-year-old Pardew deserves all the plaudits that have been coming his way for managing to offload Barton to QPR and netting the club £1 million as well when he got rid of the controversial midfielder.
|HOW THE GOAL.COM READERS VOTED
|1st Alan Pardew - 58.75%
2nd Roberto Mancini - 12.54%
3rd Brendan Rodgers - 12.34%
4th Paul Lambert - 4.18%
Others - 12.18%
He has been named by the League Manager's Association and by Premier League sponsors Barclays as the top boss because he has done what many have failed to do before him and that is bring a level of sanity to a club that has been a byword for madness.Thanks to his astute stewardship, Pardew has gone from zero to hero in the eyes of the sceptical Toon Army. No one wanted him when he succeeded Chris Hughton in December 2010 but now Newcastle fans would not swap him for anyone else, and even chant his name in the same way they used to when paying homage to the late Sir Bobby Robson.
After overcoming the loss of Andy Carroll last season to Liverpool, the former West Ham, Reading and Southampton boss has overseen a transformation of the club's fortunes this season thanks to a keen eye for a player and tactical nous.
|"There are no two ways about it - he has done a brilliant job in difficult circumstances at a great club"
- Ex-Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder
Yes, chief scout Graham Carr deserves credit for spotting players but it was Pardew who had to work out whether or not he could assimilate players such as Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Davide Santon and Papiss Cisse and he has done that in style.
They have fitted in quickly because Pardew has turned his team from being one that relied upon Carroll’s aerial prowess to one that loves to counterattack.
|"I doubt anyone can say they are not surprised by how well Newcastle have done and the credit for that goes to Alan Pardew"
- Former Newcastle skipper Alan Shearer
So he is clearly a man with a plan but he is also adept on the training ground and the way the likes of Santon, James Perch, Hatem Ben Arfa and Mike Williamson have flourished is evidence that Pardew is one of those coaches who pride themselves on player development.
A clever man-manager and fluent communicator, Pardew ticks all the boxes and that is why he is Goal.com’s Manager of the Season rather than Manchester City’s Roberto Mancini, Norwich City’s Paul Lambert, Wigan’s Roberto Martinez or Swansea’s Brendan Rodgers.
The only trouble is that Pardew has a hard act to follow in replicating this season's success. Expectations are bound to rise on Tyneside as European football looms again but he will be relishing the challenge of maintaining upward mobility.