IN his days as manager of West Ham United, Alan Pardew was probably football’s most ostentatious Mr Motivator.
Faced with a conundrum like Leon Best, the younger Pardew would probably have thrown on a T-shirt with a corny slogan like “Simply the Best” to try and inspire him out of his goal famine.
Nowadays his methods area little less showy, but more effective. Just as well, because not many Gallowgate regulars regard this winter as T-shirt weather.
Whatever Pardew has been doing behind closed doors at Darsley Park, it worked spectacularly last night. Best was cheered to the rafters as he left the field with 26 minutes left, his work done. You would have got extremely long odds on that even a couple of hours earlier.
Even then, Best was a textbook transfer flop, a misjudgment, a mistake and at times even an embarrassment. Not any more.
Best not only scored his first Newcastle United goal, but his maiden senior hat-trick to boot, as Pardew recorded his first win over the Hammers since they sacked him in 2006. Chris Hughton signed the striker from Coventry City last January, but only last night started to repay his £1.5m transfer fee with a confidence no forward so short of goals has any right to show.
Best took 12 days getting off the mark in 2010, then another 353 days trying unsuccessfully to add to it. Most of those came as a Newcastle player, making Best’s surname sound like a cruel joke to Gallowgate ears. Written off long before Hughton was handed his P45, his signing on the list of indictments against the former manager.
Best’s late introduction at the DW Stadium smacked of putting him in the shop window. When he missed a good late chance, it was not looking the wisest of moves. But perhaps Pardew’s motives were more genuine – and wise – than he was given credit for.
Surprisingly handed his chance by Shola Ameobi’s ankle injury, life as a fully-fledged top-flight player had not started well. Four minutes in he chested down a long ball but before he could shoot, James Tomkins jumped in to rob him. It would be the exception to the rule for both men’s nights.
Although Scott Parker’s swerving shot forced the only real save of the first half, Newcastle enjoyed a comfortable start to the game and it was only a matter of time before Best would get another chance.