The day Alan Pardew boiled over in a bagel shop while Newcastle United manager

Writer Miles Starforth has reported on Newcastle United for 20 years. This is the latest in a series of recollections and anecdotes from his time covering the club.

“Newcastle’s American tour is in a state – and that’s the gospel truth.”

That was the first paragraph, or intro, that led Alan Pardew boiling over in a bagel shop in the USA amid a Stateside heatwave in the summer of 2011.

Everything that could go wrong seemingly had gone wrong by the time Newcastle United landed in Columbus, Ohio for the last leg of a pre-season tour.

Things had started unravelling before the squad had even jetted across the Atlantic.

Joey Barton and Nile Ranger weren’t even allowed to travel because of their previous convictions, and I learnt at the departures lounge at London Heathrow that Yohan Cabaye hadn’t got a visa because of a disputed dental bill. You couldn’t make it up.

Cabaye was spared a lot of flying. And I mean a LOT. I had seven flights in 10 days, and the team, which was to be led by Fabricio Coloccini following the departure of Kevin Nolan, had more. Coloccini’s calmness would be needed over the course of the trip, which had followed a 2-0 win over Darlington which had seen a Sammy Ameobi goal and a pitch invasion.

The first leg was in Kansas City, Missouri, where Newcastle took on Major League Soccer club Sporting Kansas City. Pardew and his players were feeling the heat well before a ball was kicked in anger.


Hide Ad
Miles' Memories.

Things got worse at the then-named Livestrong Sporting Park, where Hatem Ben Arfa was stretchered off. From the press box, I got a glimpse of the ambulance taking Ben Arfa to hospital. That was the end of his tour, and it wasn’t a good start for the team.

Next up was thundery Orlando, where another storm was brewing.

United trained close to the cavernous 70,000-capacity Citrus Bowl, where they were due to play Adrian Heath’s Orlando City on a grass pitch laid over the stadium’s artificial turf.


Hide Ad

Newcastle didn’t like it the newly-laid pitch. The grass was hastily ripped up and the team ended up playing on the original surface.

Alan Pardew.

Pardew, fearing muscle injuries, left Shola Ameobi out and didn’t start Demba Ba. Ryan Taylor limped off with a groin injury during a limp 1-0 defeat.

The day before the game a huffy Alan Smith had spoken to local reporters but refused to speak to the reporters from Tyneside. Smith wasn’t happy with a tweet that documented his refusal – and asked for it to be deleted.


Hide Ad

United’s players, incidentally, were staying at a hotel where there was a Baptist convention.

“We have one convention of the Baptist church, who are signing and dancing in the hallway a lot, and another convention of old ladies,” said Pardew, who left De Haag last week after the Dutch club was given a relegation reprieve.

Jose Enrique playing against Columbus Crew.

There would be one last storm before the squad left a hot and humid Florida. I’d planned to spend a few hours by the pool before catching a late flight to Columbus, Ohio for the final leg of the tour the day after the Orlando game.


Hide Ad

Only I hadn’t reckoned with Jose Enrique, who lambasted the club’s hierarchy that day in a tweet storm which coincided with Orlando’s daily thunderstorm.

“The club is allowing all the major players of the team to go," Enrique tweeted. "This club will never again fight to be among the top six again with this policy."

In journalistic terms, this tour was the gift that kept on giving.

“He's a good lad, but this didn't reflect well on him,” said Pardew. "Twitter’s dangerous. You can say things when you're emotional."


Hide Ad

The tweets resonated with a fanbase which already wanted owner Mike Ashley to sell up, though the comments would be thrown back at Enrique – who joined Liverpool that summer – by Newcastle supporters the following season.

Hatem Ben Arfa.

A bespectacled Pardew, dressed smartly in a blazer, invited the travelling journalists out for a coffee and a bagel in Columbus.

Once the pleasantries were over, and the bagels were ordered, he got started. United’s manager was furious at the coverage of the tour – and, in particular, that piece which had claimed it was “in a state”.


Hide Ad

The logistical problems had nothing to do with the journalists, but Pardew, by now feeling the heat himself, wanted to vent.

Pardew was a manager who liked to get things off his chest. He sat down before one press conference in England and railed against what he felt had been some “disgraceful journalism”. Rant over, he calmly spoke on the record. He did that in Columbus, and even hinted at a summer move for Jermain Defoe.

Lee Charnley, the club’s managing director, was even less happy with the coverage of the unravelling tour, though he didn’t speak to the media.

Charnley, it seemed, didn’t want us there. Fortunately, the hosts in each city couldn’t have been more welcoming.


Hide Ad

The tour ended on a high with a 3-0 win over MLS side Columbus Crew.

There were buckets of cold beers at the team and press hotel that night as the squad relaxed after what had been a gruelling and draining tour.

Everything that could go wrong had seemingly gone wrong. Yet the team would go on to finish fifth – three places higher than Enrique’s Liverpool.

The hope now on Tyneside, should the proposed £300million takeover led by Amanda Staveley and funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, be approved by the Premier League, is that the club can once again challenge for European football.


Hide Ad

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.


Hide Ad

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers – and consequently the advertising that we receive – we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.

Thank you

How to subscribe to the print edition

It’s easy to subscribe to your local newspaper. We have arranged a special 20 per cent off subscription offer for people to take advantage of. Visit, choose the newspaper title, the type of subscription and enter your details.