Numbers can be twisted to suit our own ends but essentially they don’t lie – Alan Pardew is statistically the most successful West Ham manager of the last 20 years.
The post Harry Redknapp era has produced little in the way of effective competition but Pards left his mark at Upton Park.
The club was in the midst of a periodic crisis when he was appointed manager in October 2003. The previous campaign had been eventful for his present and previous employer.
The Hammers were relegated in a disaster prone season that saw manager Glenn Roeder collapse with a brain tumour. Even Trevor Brooking in a caretaking role could not prevent relegation after a 10 year spell in the Premier League.
Meanwhile Reading had been narrowly beaten by Wolves in the play-off semi-finals. So Pardew’s credentials were perfect for a gruelling campaign in the Championship.
Brooking handed over to Pardew after 15 league games with the team handily placed in fifth spot. Solid if unspectacular progress secured a place in the play-offs. Ipswich Town were dispatched in the semi-final setting up an encounter with Crystal Palace.
A flat and disjointed Hammers side were beaten by a solitary Neil Shipperley goal. Nevertheless, it was a satisfactory marker for his first season in charge. Then 2004/05 would draw the best from an assorted squad of journeymen and promising youngsters.
Pardew’s most notable close-season signing was 38-year-old Teddy Sherringham; the final chapter of a glorious career would be crucial to the team he supported as a boy.
Their form was patchy for most of the season as three defeats in March were followed by three wins in April.
But Pardew had instilled some resilience as West Ham squeezed into the play-offs in sixth spot.
Curiously, they beat Ipswich again in the semi-final to meet Preston North End at Wembley. The unheralded Bobby Zamora bagged the winner adding to the three goals scored in the two leg semi-final. A team mostly without stars had succeeded through hard graft and honest toil.
Then 2005/06 was Pardew’s Annus Mirabilis at West Ham. A top 10 finish in the Premier League was crowned by an excellent run to the FA Cup Final. A talented, though under achieving, Liverpool would be their opponents.
When Paul Konchesky put us ahead in the 64th minute fans dared to dream of a first Cup Final victory in 26 years. But an inspired strike by Steven Gerrard had mentally dragged the game back in Liverpool’s favour.
The Hammers died in extra time and eventually lost on penalties. It was a bitter pill having been the better side over 90 minutes.
There was still much to cheer the Upton Park faithful. With qualification for the UEFA Cup assured, a good side was beginning to take shape.
Dean Ashton was an exciting prospect and formed a potent strike force with Marlon Harewood; Yossi Benayoun and Nigel Reo-Coker were staple in midfield and Mark Noble was breaking through.
But storm clouds were gathering as opposition to club chairman Terry Brown gathered pace. And two South Americans playing for Corinthians in Brazil would inadvertently shatter any dream of future glory.
Fans rejoiced in September 2006 when Argentinian pair Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano were signed from Corinthians.
Twenty-two year old Tevez had starred in Argentina’s World Cup Under-20 win and was already a full international. A diminutive striker sporting the number 10 shirt drew fanciful comparisons with another Buenos Aires native.
Also twenty-two Mascherano was a defensive midfielder and Olympic gold medallist from Athens in 2004. They were marquee signings reminiscent of Spurs’ acquisition of Ardiles and Villa in 1978.
It appeared to be a fortuitous development; Dean Ashton had broken his ankle while training with the England squad in August. It was widely expected that Ashton would win his first cap against Greece but later examination ruled him out for the season.
So who wouldn’t want two world class internationals at their disposal? Alan Pardew’s knowledge of the transfer is still a matter of conjecture even 14 years after the event.
But it destabilised a side already creaking under the weight of expectation. The pair spoke little English and created tensions within a squad unsettled by their arrival.
There was a feeling players would get found out as the first season back novelty wore off. Media knives sharpened as the Hammers had a nightmare start to the season. They were outclassed by Palermo in the UEFA Cup and lost to Chesterfield in the League Cup.
A 4-0 defeat to Bolton in December left them third from bottom. It was West Ham’s 14th defeat in 20 games and proved to be Pardew’s swansong.
Few managers are universally popular at any club and vulnerable to knee jerk reactions from the board; fans are notoriously two-faced and will quickly turn when things go wrong.
The fabled West Ham Way had been jettisoned in favour of a more muscular and functional game.
Alan Pardew had betrayed the purist vision so treasured by the claret and blue army. His over reliance on Prozone stats and motivational slogans certainly did him no favours.
But Pardew’s achievements at the club should not be overlooked; a win ratio of 53% puts him ahead of Ron Greenwood, John Lyall and Harry Redknapp. The club came within a whisker of winning the FA Cup and with proper backing might have built on that early success.