By Greg Stobart
It feels a far cry from his everyday life as Alan Pardew sits in a ramshackle portacabin by the North Sea that mostly serves as a makeshift changing room for non-league North Shields FC.
Yet the Newcastle manager is perfectly comfortable in surroundings more familiar than might first appear the case. As he drinks tea from a polyester cup and talks to local volunteers, Pardew’s mind drifts back to his own days below the professional pyramid.
Pardew was late coming into the game, working as a glazier while playing non-league football for the likes of Epsom & Ewell, Corinthian Casuals and Yeovil before signing professional forms with Crystal Palace at the age of 26.
So how have those early experiences shaped the man who won the League Managers Association (LMA) manager of the year award last season after guiding Newcastle to fifth place in the Premier League?
“The non-league background just gives me a good grounding for dealing with all sorts of levels of footballers,” Pardew tells Goal.com. “At non-league level, you can play with someone who is court judge of the area to somebody who is out of work, all playing in the same team. You’ve got to find a winning way, you’ve got to find a spirit among you that can get you a result, just like we did at Everton [in the 2-2 draw last Monday].
“It’s no different. In the end, it was our spirit that got us the result at Everton. At any level, you’ve got to bring a winning mentality to the pitch. That’s what the FA Cup and non-league football can do for you, bring you that winning spirit.”
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|Alan Pardew said his team deserved a draw against Everton at Goodison
It is the most exciting time of Pardew’s managerial career as he takes charge of a squad packed with quality in the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse, Yohan Cabaye and Cheikh Tiote.
Long forgotten is the scepticism that followed Pardew’s controversial appointment by owner Mike Ashley in December 2010, replaced by almost unlimited optimism as the 51-year-old looks to win the first silverware of his career, and end the Magpies’ trophy drought stretching back to their Fairs Cup triumph in 1969.
“You should never lose that dream,” says Pardew, who is an ambassador for the Budweiser Club Futures programme that will see £1m invested into grassroots football over the next two seasons. “I had that dream as a non-league player, I didn’t get into the game at a professional level until I was 26 years old.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a risk this season of ‘after the Lord mayor’s show’ because we finished fifth. It gives us European football but, for me, there is still a bit more glory to be had than that. Winning the competition is the be-all and end-all. Perhaps that is beyond us at this stage but we are going to give it a go and after 10 games we will know what we think our season is going to be.
“For us, the priority is the Premier League. It’s the most important because of the Champions League football, the revenue and everything else that brings. Secondly, in front of the Europa League and the League Cup, is the FA Cup. This club is desperate to win it, desperate to win a trophy, and that is very, very high on my agenda. Hopefully, this year we get a home draw and a good start, because the draws have never been too kind since I’ve been here.”
At the heart of Newcastle’s rapid return to prominence - they were relegated in 2009 - has been the club’s transfer policy, led by Pardew alongside chief scout Graham Carr as they scour Europe for young players undervalued in the market and with high sell-on potential.
“It’s about targeting the right players,” Pardew explains. “We’ve got a great chief scout here in Graham Carr and myself and my team make sure we do everything we can to make sure we don’t make a mistake.
“That means covering all of the bases when you try to sign a player. Not just their playing ability but their character, their personality, how they are going to fit in, their injury record, their stats. All of that, and hopefully you get it right. So far, it’s not been bad.”
Newcastle’s transfer dealings have worked almost too well, to the extent that key players, particularly Tiote and Cabaye, were consistently linked with moves away from Sports Direct Arena over the summer.
While Pardew admits he wanted to strengthen the squad further in the last transfer window, especially in defence ahead of a long campaign that includes Europa League participation, he believes holding on to his star men gives Newcastle a real chance of pushing for a top four finish this term.
“I think keeping our best players has been underplayed,” Pardew continues. “Now people are beginning to recognise that, and I certainly think they will do in a month’s time when we’re all up and running because we’ve got a few injuries at the minute. We’ve got a very good side here and we can build on last year.”
|16/1||Newcastle are 16/1 to win the 2012-13 FA Cup with bet365|
“I’m absolutely looking to develop the Academy,” adds Pardew, although the club are hampered by only being awarded Category 2 status for their youth system.
“It’s something that all clubs are aspiring to. When you look at clubs that get it right - let’s say Barcelona, who are top of the tree at the moment - eight of their first-team players who played in the Champions League final in two out of the last three years have been from their Academy.
“That’s what you’ve got to grab, that’s where your club belongs. We’re trying to get, at our own level, players who can play for the first-team but it’s not easy.”
Pardew knows as well more than most, though, that anything is possible in football if you do everything you can to make it happen.
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Clubs wishing to apply for the grants should visit The FA website at www.TheFA.com/BudweiserClubFutures Closing date for submission of applications is 31/10/2012. For more information on The FA Cup with Budweiser visit www.facebook.com/budweiseruk and http://youtube.budweiser.co.uk