Yesterday afternoon, English football was stunned as an announcement concerning a length of time exceeded all expectation ... actually, no, that's rubbish, isn't it? The set-up's clunky, and the "Not John Terry, you fools!" punchline's far too obvious. Forget that. Let's go for something else. Something classic, something timeless. (Something I haven't used for a few months.) Ah, yes ...
[adjusts tie, smirks at camera] Newcastle, eh? What's that all about?
After all, John Terry's ban wasn't too much of a surprise. But Alan Pardew putting pen -- probably a monogrammed one that he keeps in his suit and won't let anyone else use, he seems the type -- to a shiny new eight-year deal was a genuine moment of jaw-droppery. "How long? Eight?"
The initial temptation, of course, is to point and laugh. Much of that is because this is Newcastle, English football's official comedy club, and this is their owner Mike Ashley, clown-in-chief. This is the genius who gave us Joe Kinnear and the Alan Shearer/Iain Dowie dream team, and ambles around drinking beer in sight of the pitch while wearing a replica shirt with a customised name on the back. Chuckle! Chortle! He's only gone and done it again!
But there is plenty of sense in the deal, once you stop goggling at the actual duration. In many ways, contract lengths in football are ceremonial: everybody has a price, and virtually everybody, if they do well enough, will attract somebody willing to meet that price. And when it comes to managers, rare is the man who is insulated from the consequences of failure by the mere inconvenience of a monster payout. In any case, the most important aspect of the Pardew deal is not the precise length. It's that it's part of a larger package; his coaches have been given the same extension, while chief scout Graham Carr, who's received much credit for Newcastle's recent canniness in the transfer window, signed a similar deal in July.
Derek Llambias, the club's managing director, told the BBC that "stability gives you the best platform to achieve success", which you'd think would be fairly inarguable but runs contrary to how a lot of football business actually seems to get done. Everything is always in flux, so everybody is always moving with it. That's probably why the eight years feels so weird: the idea that any manager might actually last that long is vaguely discomfiting.
One English manager who signed an even longer deal was Sam Allardyce, who committed to Bolton Wanderers for ten years - "Ten? TEN?" - in February 2001. Allardyce apparently intended to retire from football at the end of that term, though he changed his mind, resigning in 2007 before taking over at Newcastle, appropriately enough. That, of course, didn't go well, but while it isn't easily possible to determine just how much of Bolton's remarkable overachievement was down to off-field stability, it's not unreasonable to suggest that it played a part.
Llambias cites the examples of Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger, but a more likely point of direct comparison here is David Moyes. As Richard Whittall points out over on The Score, one of the key reasons Moyes gets so much respect is because of the length of his tenure at Everton, and the faith he and the club have shown in each other. It's an admirable model, and it doesn't become ridiculous just because you write it down.
A long contract is, in itself, no guarantee that the next eight years will for Newcastle be a glorious, blissful, uninterrupted journey through a Pardew wonderland. But it is a sign that, for the moment, Mike Ashley has faith in his management team, and they all have faith in one another. The club, right now, is at peace. In some ways it's symbolic: we're busy people, let's get this out of the way. If it fails, then it fails, but it'll be a failure that comes from an attempt to do something eminently sensible. That shouldn't be laughed at; it should be applauded.