SHOULD Alan Pardew escape an FA disciplinary this week for his appalling goading of Martin O’Neill during yesterday’s derby, he should consider himself a very lucky man.
The Newcastle boss’s distasteful reaction to his side being awarded a late penalty was arguably the worst behaviour from a Premier League manager all season.
Kenny Dalglish and Arsene Wenger may have had a spat in the wake of Liverpool’s August victory at the Emirates, but that wasn’t in the same league as Pardew’s provocation.
After Newcastle were awarded their penalty, the United manager turned and roared directly at O’Neill, advancing fist clenched towards the Sunderland dug-out and taunted the Black Cats’ boss for several seconds before officials intervened.
It was spoiling for a fight and had O’Neill responded in like manner, it would have dragged an already controversial game down to a whole new level.
Replays of the incident did not improve a display more suited to a beered-up supporter than a Premier League manager.
And when he was asked directly afterwards about whether he regretted approaching the Sunderland bench with clenched fist, he admitted: “Yes, I do regret it.
“I’ve seen it back on the TV and it looks terrible.
“It was just relief, sheer relief that we had got a penalty – I’ve never done anything like that before.
“It just shows that the pressure of the game can get to even older managers like me.”
Earlier, he had tried to play down the touchline tantrums.
“Unless you’re a manager or player at this football you can’t really appreciate the pressure there is around this particular football game,” he argued.
“There’s a lot of pressure building up all week, there’s a lot of emotion building up.
“This is a passionate game. In terms of the mindset of the other team, it frustrated us.
“Maybe my bench and their bench could have handled it a bit better and been a bit more grown-up about it.
“This is a game that gets to you, I’m afraid.
“If one or two of us, including myself, crossed the line then we can only apologise.
“But it happens. It happens in our playing career as well, and you shake hands and it’s all forgotten about – it will be in my case.”
O’Neill refused afterwards to enlarge on the incident publicly.
Asked about whether such animation was to be expected in a derby, he would only reply: “It may well be,” before cutting off further questions, saying: “Look, leave it,” he said. “It’s no problem.”
There will be plenty to keep the footballing authorities occupied from this game, with eight bookings, two sendings off and controversy over whether Newcastle’s backroom staff encroached on referee Mike Dean and his officials at half-time.
But Pardew will hope that when they do look at the footage of the game, they do not focus too closely on actions which, at the very least, lacked class, but which could easily be deemed to bring the game into disrepute.