‘Taxi for Alan Pardew’ might be a premature call but despite the beleaguered West Brom head coach claiming his players’ second-half rally proved they were behind him, his future appears in jeopardy after this latest setback.
Jonny Evans lost the captaincy but kept his place as Pardew gambled on his team responding to “one crazy evening” in Barcelona by reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Instead they lost, Southampton deservedly recording their second win at the Hawthorns in a fortnight, and so Pardew’s decision to give the disgraced players “a chance to remedy the situation” backfired. He has not asserted his authority but neither has he gained a shot at Wembley glory.
Goals from Wesley Hoedt and Dusan Tadic gave Southampton the lead their first-half superiority merited before Salomón Rondón’s breathtaking volley gave West Brom the platform for an aerial assault. But losing only further shakes the shifting sands under Pardew’s managerial seat.
He said he was “furious” about the players’ indiscipline on Thursday when Evans, Gareth Barry, Boaz Myhill and Jake Livermore broke a curfew on a team-bonding trip to Barcelona at 5.30am to appropriate the taxi that had taken them to a fast-food outlet. So losing at home to Southampton again, to depart the FA Cup, only weakens a tenure he admitted pre-game was far from secure with the chairman, John Williams, and the chief executive, Martin Goodman, departing earlier in the week.
Bottom of the Premier League, seven points adrift of 17th place, and with just three wins in his 17-game tenure, Pardew sounded less than convinced he is the right man to lead West Brom to another great escape.
“I hope so,” he said, “because I’m an experienced manager. I’ve experienced this situation many times before. Once I have been relegated, at Charlton, but I’ve got out of this situation before at Newcastle and Crystal Palace and I’m determined to get out of this one as well.
“It’s difficult for managers. Obviously, I was furious with what happened but at the same time I’ve got to stay faithful to the players and give them a chance to remedy the situation. Gareth Barry was ok today but I thought Jonny was very good, actually, in the circumstances.”
The trip to Spain was booked before Albion recorded their surprise fourth-round victory at Liverpool when they might have expected to have more free time in mid-February.
If senior players were less than happy at going away over Valentine’s Day, then their professionalism surely has to be questioned. Pardew is adamant the decision to take the squad for four days away together was valid.
“The most important thing is, if I look at the time I’ve spent here, all over the Christmas period I cancelled everything,” he said. “We hadn’t done anything really, socially. The guys’ professionalism, timekeeping and everything has been spot on. We’ve had this one crazy evening and it doesn’t reflect the work and the professionalism we do as a staff and as players. And that’s massively disappointing but it’s there now and we can’t get away from it.
“There’s 11 cup finals for us starting next week [at home to Huddersfield]. And if our fans are as good to us as that next week we’ll be fortunate. Hopefully we can repay them.”
Southampton’s run is almost as bad as Albion’s, with their only win in 14 league games coming at the Hawthorns recently. At least they have a place in the quarter-final draw to encourage them in their battle to stay up.
Albion’s tumultuous week went from bad to worse when they went behind in the 11th minute. Quite what Tony Pulis, Pardew’s predecessor dismissed in November, would have made of the defensive organisation from Southampton’s corners can only be imagined but when James Ward-Prowse’s corner kick came across, the unmarked Hoedt had the simplest of tasks to volley home from six yards.
James McClean dispatched a fierce shot just wide but West Brom did not muster a shot on target in the first period. Although the hosts came out with more aggressive intent in the second period, Southampton survived and made it 2-0 in the 56th minute.
The £19m striker Guido Carrillo crossed for Dusan Tadic to make the most of Grzegorz Krychowiak’s botched clearance attempt and produce a cute finish from the edge of the penalty area.
As if aware things could hardly get any worse, the pressure was off the home team. So when Krychowiak floated a diagonal cross towards the left edge of the penalty area, Rondón relaxed his body shape and unleashed a spectacular left-footed volley into the net.
Albion huffed and puffed with more vigour after this point, with Ahmed Hegazi having one close-range effort saved by Alex McCarthy and another bounce up against the crossbar before Rondón’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Ryan Bertrand, but Southampton had already done enough damage to deserve their place in the quarter-finals.
“Football is about efficiency,” Mauricio Pellegrino, the Southampton manager, said. “The most important thing now is to believe in our job and believe in our way from now until the end of the season in the remaining Premier League games and in the next round.”