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Alan Pardew's Headbuttgate and Luke Edwards' Classism: Two Stories, One Lesson

Discourse is broken and the two latest stories surrounding Newcastle United prove it.

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Tony Marshall

In today's world it is not always important what your message is but merely that you state it insistently, loudly and to the complete exclusion of any opposing viewpoint.  It's the only way.  When Alan Pardew decided to insert himself in a very physical way into the Hull City v. Newcastle United it was yet another in a series of miscalculations and poor decisions.  It was destined to be fodder for the most ardent of the Pardew Out brigade.  Perhaps equally predictably, it was instantly latched on to by the media.

Saying that Newcastle United have had a very rocky relationship with the media would be among the most massive of understatements.  Responding to criticism of your club by banning the outlets doing the criticizing or the ones reporting that a loss v. bottom half Aston Villa would end the Alan Pardew era will do that for you.  For every action, there is a reaction.  From the instant that Alan Pardew's head started moving forward, everything else was going to melt away.  The well won 4-1 victory.  The fact that David Meyler was also responsible for the situation escalating.  All of it.  From that one second the reaction of a scorned media was always going to be "PARDEW IS A MONSTER".  So it was.  Perhaps tellingly, there is a somewhat objective way to drive this point home.

The career narratives of Robbie Savage and Joey Barton are not very dissimilar.  Both are polarizing characters and both are love-or-hate kinds of players.  Some would say hard, some would say dirty but their career paths have taken a slight (probably temporary) divergence.  While Barton plies his trade on the pitch still with QPR he may end up as part of the media in the long run... the same media that already employs Savage.  Their reactions, brought to us through the magic of The Twitterz:

or then also:

Is this ironclad proof of my thesis?  By no means.  Similar reputations or playing styles by no means indicates that opinions on matters will align.  The bottom line is that Savage's message was and continues to be flat out media narrative.  Pardew's out of control.  Pardew's ruining the game.  Even a rush to apologize following the match wasn't (and shouldn't have been) enough to absolve our illustrious leader.  Interestingly in this rush to condemnation of Alan Pardew, there has been very little mention in English media about this fella who had to be physically restrained from advancing on the referee who had, presumably, not shoved him prior to this clip.

I know, I know... Pardew's been there, done that with the shoving of referees.  German Burgos doesn't work for a club that has made mortal enemies of the English media, though, does he? Also, he doesn't have a working-class upbringing like Alan Pardew, right Luke Edwards?

This was in response to an article written by Luke Edwards Sunday Night for The Telegraph.  The pink highlighted section in this tweet set off exactly the same reaction of incredulous vitriol towards the man who Saved The Toon.  In the grandest tradition of our time, a single passage is selected from a larger work with intent to evoke an emotional response.  I confess that at first I jumped right on board with everyone else in feeling outrage. I even sent out a tweet regarding my upbringing and the fact that I had not, in spite of having been raised in a below the poverty line family in the US, ever headbutted David Meyler.  And then I thought to myself: "Maybe I should see what the rest of the article says".

In fairness to Luke Edwards, just as in Headbuttgate, it is perhaps not as bad as it is being portrayed.  Edwards does spend an amount of time in the article trying to paint Alan Pardew in a positive light:

As a player, Pardew had to fight for everything. He made the most of the talent he had. Hungry and determined, he clawed his way up from the back waters of non-League football to play in the top division.

He even goes so far as to suggest that "The ferocity of Pardew’s will-to-win is complemented by an astute tactical brain and impressive man-management skills" which is ... a point on which we disagree absolutely.  In the entire context of the article, the one single sentence doesn't seem to feel quite as terrible... much like an isolated headbutt in a football match.  Even as Newcastle United fans we've seen at least three such incidents this season alone.  After reading the totality of the article, I was about ready to write it off as a misunderstanding.  I kept coming back to it, however, and then the reaction was negative and far-reaching enough that Luke Edwards took back to the Twitter to defend himself:

The series of tweets somewhat summarizes what Luke was attempting to say with the piece in the first place, but doesn't necessarily make things better.  While they necessarily deal with class (as that is what the Twitter uproar was about), the fact remains, if you reread Luke's piece and omit the entire sentence in question, two things happen: 1) the overall point of the piece is just as effective and 2) the narrative shifts from the perception of expected behavior derived from class background to a story of how Alan Pardew's footballing career – which is really what matters here – influenced who and what he is today.  The sentence about class was unnecessary.  It was Luke Edwards pushing his head towards David Meyler.  Ultimately, in the same way as Alan Pardew as a manager must be held to a higher standard of behavior than a player, Luke Edwards as a journalist must be held to a higher standard in his words. The situations are really quite similar and the lesson to us is that we, as media members or supporters and consumers of football as well as citizens of Earth, must be willing to accept that all isn't on one extreme or the other.  There are times that actions or reactions fall into a gray area, and that's fine.  Exclude those two small moments from the weekend and what are you left with?  Newcastle beat Hull 4-1 and the Cup Final that we couldn't be bothered to even try to reach happened.  For me, that's a lovely enough weekend.