The season is over, but there remains time to put the boot in. For a manager who only inherited a job because another manager was wrongly sacked, one would think Alan Pardew would be a bit more choosy with his words when referring to the fruitful work of his plucky predecessor.
It was Chris Hughton rather than Pardew who laid the foundations for Newcastle to remain in the Premier League, not that there will be much bunting being unearthed to remember Hughton's contribution around owner Mike Ashley's manor if the Pimm's is flowing this summer.
Against this backdrop, it is difficult to know what Pardew was sniffing over the weekend when he found time to lament Newcastle's decision to loan their enormous goalkeeper Fraser Forster to Celtic last year.
Forster's season-long loan move was ratified by Hughton, a coach who was sacked by Ashley last December despite carrying them to promotion from the Championship. Newcastle were 11th in the table when Hughton was fired last December. Under Pardew, they wound up a place worse off in 12th.
Celtic have been making noises about retaining Forster, but Pardew would appear to be more in favour of a ground-sharing arrangement with Sunderland. Sounding like one of those miserable characters from Eastenders, who compare holidaying in Scotland to a trip to the moon, Pardew moaned: "I think he's coming back to a completely different level of football, I'll tell you that now.
"We have watched that division and watched him all year. We've been very disappointed with the quality of the games, other than the occasional Rangers versus Celtic game.
"And even some of those have been poor, if I'm honest. He is coming to a completely different level of football."
Occasional? Celtic and Rangers came across each other seven times in the past season. Despite being at a severe financial disadvantage while English clubs graze off television millions, Scottish sides have always matched up well to their richer neighbours. Rangers downed Newcastle United 2-1 in a pre-season friendly at Ibrox last July. This is hardly the work of a league "at a completely different level".
Pardew's analysis is tinged with more than a little ignorance. Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul did not exactly stifle his development by a loan spell at Falkirk a couple of years ago. The former Rangers winger Peter Lovenkrands was Newcastle's fourth-top goalscorer with seven.
The SPL is a league where Rangers, the Scottish champions, managed to contain the English winners in Manchester United without too many problems in a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in the Champions League. How many sides departed Old Trafford with a similar result in the Premier League? Rangers had plenty of opportunities to pierce the visiting net in the second leg at Ibrox before Wayne Rooney's penalty won it for United. Blackpool's stylish midfielder Charlie Adam has found room to blossom in England that was never afforded him with Rangers.
The queue of clubs forming to sign Adam this summer will not care about his roots in the SPL. Pardew's comments are as tacky as a cheap tracksuit from Ashley's sport shops. As a small league, Scottish football is an easy target. It has plenty of ills, mainly brought about by the transportation of TV money into Europe's prime leagues. Money has vandalised the landscape and fair competition in the European game, perhaps irreversibly.
Learned football nations in Belgium, Hungary, Sweden and Holland - the great cradle of Total Football - are all struggling to make an imprint upon the higher planes of the European game due to players departing to play for greater returns.
If the standard of the Spanish league is deemed wonderful because it contains Barcelona and Real Madrid, one should study footage of Real Madrid's 8-1 win over Almeria on Saturday night. This was not only an embarrassment to La Liga. It was an affront to football.
Pardew has previous of attacking Scottish football. He once lamented inheriting several Scots after replacing Tommy Burns at Reading, but has himself been sacked by West Ham United, Charlton Athletic and Southampton. He is hardly the voice of authority on the subject.
To suggest that Forster will need to raise his levels is a silly observation. Pardew should study footage of the save Forster made from Jennison Myrie-Williams during a match against St Johnstone last October to see if the goalkeeper has been tested. It is debatable whether or not Forster would be good enough to represent Celtic in their attempt to improve themselves in Europe. This a figure who is a work in progress compared to Artur Boruc, Celtic's previous goalkeeper.
Hughton rightly thought that if Forster could cope with a season at Celtic, a club where the pressure to win is replicated in only a few other outposts around Europe, he would be more than adequately prepared to resume competition for a place at Newcastle.
There are games in the Premier League, like in Scotland, that are not works of art. Some of them involve Newcastle. Unless you are a direct supporter of a club, there is very little interest in Newcastle facing Wigan, Newcastle hosting Blackburn Rovers or Newcastle confronting Bolton.
Clubs such as Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibernian and the Dundee clubs are hardly smaller entities than Wigan Athletic, Fulham, Bolton or Blackburn Rovers. It would be interesting to witness the attendances washing up in English grounds if Manchester United or Arsenal or Newcastle were forced to welcome clubs such as Hamilton. That would be a better indicator of how many 'fans' are actually willing to pay money.
It is a shame that a great club such as Newcastle appears to be run by largely anonymous football figures from the South of England, misguided men who really do not respect the conduct demanded of such an institution. If Pardew had any sense, he would be making it his business to take a closer look at Scotland.
There are several players in the SPL who could easily enhance Pardew's squad, but when you are blinded by misconceptions such a task becomes onerous. Pardew's remarks are as tasteless as the sacking of Hughton.
- Chris Hughton
- Alan Pardew
- Fraser Forster
- Newcastle United