Is Pardew right for Newcastle?
Alan Pardew walks into Newcastle United with his personal rating plunging off a cliff and an atmosphere of simmering unrest swirling around St James' Park.
Pardew will have got the hint that the welcome mat is unlikely to be thrust out before him on Tyneside after collecting less that 2% of more than 1,000 votes cast in local newspaper poll to find out who Newcastle fans wanted as their new manager.
He had the rather scant consolation of knowing he was kept off the bottom of the pile by his West Ham United successor Alan Curbishley, who gathered in 14 backers as opposed to Pardew's 15. Not exactly the ideal start.
The five-and-a-half-year deal Pardew has signed with Newcastle almost represents a life sentence when set alongside previous regimes, while the acrimony that still surrounds Chris Hughton's sacking will make for an uncomfortable backdrop to his first game in charge against Liverpool at St James' Park on Saturday night.
No pressure then but, at a time when he needs all the friends he can get, there are still good judges out there who believe the Magpies may have made a sound appointment.
Can Pardew win over the fans in double-quick time? Photo: PA
There is heavy irony in the fact that Pardew will attempt to restart a stalled managerial career against Liverpool. It was against those very opponents that his star started to fall so dramatically. Pardew's West Ham United were only seconds away from winning the 2006 FA Cup final in Cardiff when Steven Gerrard struck one of the most memorable goals in the history of the competition to deny the Hammers their moment of glory.
This was as good as it got for Pardew at Upton Park. Surrounded by suggestions this relative success had caused him to become bedazzled and take his eye off the ball, the arrival of West Ham's new Icelandic owners and his reluctance to have Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano thrust upon him led to his inevitable departure.
Regarded as one of England's most progressive young managers, with a love of modern coaching techniques and motivational messages, his career drifted badly off course.
He was sacked at Charlton Athletic, not so much for taking them out of the Premier League but for never looking like he would take them back up again. He then suffered a similar fate at Southampton, although few could accuse him of doing a bad job at St Mary's in turbulent circumstances allied to an uneasy relationship with the club's rulers.
Now he has been handed an unexpected return to the top tier of English football, at one of the most unwieldy and unpredictable beasts in the game.
Hughton's popularity and the furious reaction to his sacking already puts Pardew on the back foot with supporters, while the revelation that he is an associate of managing director Derek Llambias, a key component of the club's unpopular hierarchy, is unlikely to see his stock rise.
Cut through the chaos and delve into Pardew's personality, however, and there is a character with enough confidence to sweep aside the ill-feeling and operate with a genuine belief that he can put Newcastle, and indeed his own career, on the straight and narrow once again.
He has always been an advocate of the attacking football Newcastle's followers demand and, with the brashness of his early years perhaps mellowed by harsh experience, his time could be about to come again at what may well be his final chance in the big time.
Former England defender Danny Mills had a spell under Pardew at Charlton and was only too willing to offer his support and admiration for the way his ex-boss works.
"I only worked with Alan relatively briefly at Charlton but really enjoyed it," Mills told me. "He took a bit of a gamble on me because he didn't know me and I didn't know him. He may have been a bit concerned about my reputation but he managed it very well.
"There are managers and coaches in football but Alan was one of the best I have worked under at doing both. He put on interesting coaching sessions but could also manage players as well.
"One of the things I admired about him was that he treated us all equally but also as individuals. He got the best out of those individuals for the good of the team - and that is the art of good management.
"Everybody in Newcastle seemed to want Martin O'Neill but I worked under Martin and there is no way he and Mike Ashley could have worked together under the constraints people say will be imposed there. I don't think they would have seen eye to eye.
"Martin Jol was another mentioned and is a good manager but after that you have to look around and see who is available to do the job. There aren't too many.
"Alan has managed in England, in the Premier League and knows English systems. I just hope the Newcastle fans don't rush to judge him and give him a fair amount of time.
"There is a lot of talk that his appointment isn't being welcomed by the fans but he will be fine with that because he is a strong and confident personality. There is a lot of emotion involved in the situation but sometimes emotions and football don't go together.
"Remember the Newcastle fans welcomed Kevin Keegan back with open arms and that didn't work. They welcomed Alan Shearer back with open arms and unfortunately that didn't work out either.
"Without being disrespectful to Newcastle's fans, they have to be realistic and realise they now need someone who's going to go in there and manage the club. I would just say to them to be patient and give Pardew time because, having worked with him, I regard him as a good manager and a good coach."
Mark Lawrenson spent time at Newcastle as part of Keegan's backroom staff and says the unique surroundings of this passionate football city make it a tough task for Pardew.
"He's under pressure more than any other manager that has been there to get results," he told me. "He has to win games quicker than anyone else has done because of the circumstances surrounding Chris Hughton's departure.
"This is not a case of a manager being forced out because he was unpopular with fans. Chris was very well liked, dignified and the supporters could see he was doing a job job.
"Alan Pardew is a real football man and has done pretty well at most places but there is a unique pressure at Newcastle. It is the biggest city in the country with only one football club and there is an incredible appetite to know what is happening at St James' Park.
"It's a cliche but it is like operating in a goldfish bowl. If Alan Shearer had a flat tyre, they didn't just want to know about the flat tyre, they wanted to know if he had gone to Kwikfit to have it repaired.
"It is going to be even harder for Pardew because of the supporters' relationship with Hughton. It may turn out to be an inspired choice because Pardew has proved he can be a good manager but it is a choice made very difficult by what happened to Hughton.
"When a manager is appointed, you usually get a month to six weeks to get things going. Pardew has probably got two or three games. He needs to make a connection with the fans and, as ever, the best way to do that is by winning football matches."
Pardew's early statements do not speak of a man daunted by the task facing him. His cast-iron self-belief and confidence now faces its sternest test, starting in front of the Toon Army against Liverpool.