At Southampton Alan Pardew showed he could manage away from the riches of the Premier League. No wonder, writes Stuart Rayner, Mike Ashley soon came calling.
There is no doubting the jewel of crown, five-goal top-scorer Lambert, who set the ball rolling at Wembley with a penalty, and has been mentioned from time to time this season as a potential England call-up. “I signed him at 27 (from Bristol Rovers) for £1m and said to the chairman at the time he could play in the Premier League,” Pardew recalls.
“A lot of people ummed and aahed about him but he has proved me right and I’m pleased for him because actually, he is such a super lad.
“I look forward to seeing him and a few others. Not for him to score because he’s very effective.
“I don’t think he has ever missed a pen for Southampton and he has the best shot – power-wise – that I have ever worked with so he is a handful.” Until their fall from grace back in 2005, Southampton had been top-flight staples.
“Southampton is a big club, even in League One,” Pardew points out.
“It was just the level of performance that sometimes was hard to watch – there were some strange tactics.
“But when you work at that level, you do realise the beauties of the Premier League, for all the pressures that go with the job.
“I had a great relationship with the fans and our performances were strong bearing in mind we had minus ten points and didn’t really have a starting XI when I arrived.”
Pardew’s relationship with his current bosses seems pretty strong, but Newcastle fans will nevertheless perhaps be relieved to hear that the man fresh into an eight-year contract did not see his rather more fraught spell with Cortese as a reason to quit.
“No, I don’t think I would ever do that,” he says. “It would have to be really strange circumstances to do that. But it was a difficult period working with Mr Cortese. We just didn’t see eye to eye. There was no nastiness in there, he just didn’t want me as his manager and I think that was obviously coming through to me.”
Now an owner he does see eye to eye with will be looking for Pardew – in conjunction with Graham Carr – to unearth more diamonds in January to bolster a squad he is saying more and more loudly in public is not good enough.
Without much income generated by an arduous Europa League game, they are certain to have to do it on the cheap.