Who should be crowned as Manager of the Year?
Jose Mourinho may have been named as Premier League Manager of the Year last week, but the big prize for managers will be decided when the League Managers' Association name their top boss on Tuesday night.
Mourinho, Bournemouth's Eddie Howe, Swansea's Garry Monk and Southampton's Ronald Koeman are all contenders for the LMA prize, yet the 2012 winner suggests he should also be under consideration.
After a season that has seen him targeted as the figure of hate for disgruntled Newcastle fans and then recast as the saviour of Crystal Palace, Alan Pardew suggests that he deserves to win the LMA prize once more.
Palace's 1-0 win against Swansea on Sunday meant that Pardew secured 57 points for Newcastle and the Eagles over the course of this season, which is a stunning record with two struggling sides.
And whole confidence has never been an issue for the tactician whose colourful management career reached game number 735 at Selhurst Park yesterday, his suggestion that he deserves to be recognised among the true heroes of this football season are not without foundation.
The tactician who guided Newcastle to a remarkable fifth-place finish in the 2011-12 season before leading the troubled club to the quarter-finals of the Europa League has rarely been feted as one of the best tacticians in the English game, yet maybe now we should realise that is exactly what he’s become.
“I could be a contender for manager of the year – why not, after what I have done at two clubs with very different demands?” he says unflinchingly.
“At Newcastle, I had a team at the bottom of the table and had to deal with a crowd that was very angry at what had gone on at the club (below). It would have been easy for me to doubt myself at that time, but you can never do that.
“To come through that and to get a side that had not been functioning well to the position we found ourselves in when I left was a good achievement.
"Then to come to Palace and get the results we have had, from the position they were in when I arrived, it has been a great season for me personally.
“That’s why I have no hesitation in saying it is my best season yet as a manager. Finishing fifth with a great Newcastle team was an achievement that speaks for itself, but I would say that getting 57 points out of half a season at two struggling clubs is even better.
“In the 18 games I have been at Palace, we are the sixth best team in the Premier League. That is incredible. I would have happily taken 17th place and survival by a goal when I arrived here, so our achievement is fantastic.”
Pardew concedes he may not be the favourite to win the Manager of the Year award for a second time, but he suggests Mourinho is not a natural pick for the prize – despite his stunning season of triumph at Stamford Bridge.
“Jose has won the title so he is obviously a candidate, but he has the best players and that means he will always have a very good chance of looking like Manager of the Year,” he argues.
“Garry Monk has done a great job at Swansea and the same goes for Ronald Koeman at Southampton. Eddie Howe has done great at Bournemouth and you need to consider the resources managers work with.
“This is not an easy job and I look at what Brendan Rodgers is going through at Liverpool a year after he was named Manager of the Year – it reminds us all how quickly this game can come back and sting you.”
Pardew’s unshakable self-belief is one of the primary qualities that shines through when you spend time in his company, with his longevity confirming that he has more to offer than most of his critics dare to admits.
His career path could have taken a very different route had Steven Gerrard not lashed home an improbable last-gasp equaliser for Liverpool against his West Ham team in the 2006 FA Cup final (below), with the trophy that would have put his career onto a different pedestal ripped away from him by one moment of mastery.
“Do I look back and wonder what might have been if Gerrard didn’t score that goal?” ponders Pardew. “Not really. I look at it and say that was destiny on the day and that was their destiny.
“Maybe it served me well, made me less arrogant and made me aware that I needed to become a better manager. I like to think I am now.”
If Pardew was a boxer, he would be described as a street fighter with a fantastic chin, as he has taken (and given) plenty of knocks down the years. As his 16th season as a manager comes to an end, his stock has never been higher.