TEAMtalk guest Jak Penny piles praise on Alan Pardew and believes his man-management skills have been key for Newcastle this season.
You have to accomplish something quite extraordinary to be talked about in the same breath as Sir Bobby Robson up in Newcastle.
Seven managers in as many years have passed through Tyneside since Robson's reign with none of them coming close to matching his achievements on the field. When it came time to appoint the eighth incumbent to the Magpies' throne the club's top brass opted for a fairly unpopular individual.
The greeting that Alan Pardew received upon his arrival in December 2010 was frosty at best. A Geordie nation, still seething following Mike Ashley's decision to dismiss the popular Chris Hughton, made their feelings perfectly clear when it came to voting for who they wanted to replace the man that restored a sense of pride to the club after the heartache of relegation.
Interestingly current Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill topped a poll initiated by the Evening Chronicle newspaper gaining 42.3 per cent of the final votes. Pardew received a measly 1.8 per cent.
Fast-forward to the present day and Pardew is now the toast of the Toon after putting Newcastle on the cusp of a return to European competition for the first time in six years. There's even talk of the Champions League hoardings making a long-awaited comeback to the St James' Park touchline.
A lot has been said about the formula attributed to Newcastle's unexpected ascent towards the Premier League top-six. Obvious factors like his meticulous tactics, astute signings and harmonising a fractured dressing room are what spring to mind at first.
But it takes more than just a cunning strategy, a few shrewd purchases and a handful of inspirational phrases dotted around the training ground to take a club to where the Magpies are currently perched. Success has been driven through motivating a group of players, written off by everyone, to hit heights they never envisaged reaching.
Pardew's capacity as a man-manager is often underestimated but he has proven his expertise at getting the best out a squad with simple positive reinforcement. He's taken players, a majority of who were not highly rated, and instilled a confidence that has propelled them to go above and beyond the limits of expectation. I doubt any football fan would have predicted that a team with James Perch, Leon Best and Danny Guthrie playing leading roles would be challenging in the upper echelons of the top flight.
Truthfully the entire first team has benefitted considerably from his morale- boosting techniques. Pardew understands more is required than just a pat on the back and word in a player's ear to raise spirits. He is extremely subtle in his methods of building and retaining a positive mental attitude within his squad.
There was the fear that minor blip over the Christmas and New Year period would demolish the belief established during Newcastle's 11-match unbeaten start to the season. Their form began to fluctuate and two heavy defeats at the hands of Tottenham and Fulham looked like killing off their top-six ambitions once and for all.
But that's where Pardew is devious in his knack of not letting morale diminish. During interviews and press conferences his demeanour oozes calm and he's proven himself to be extremely composed even under the most difficult of circumstances. He's in control of everything he does and has the intelligence to know that if he exudes positivity then his players will subconsciously take it on board.
Perhaps the best example would be his post-match comments after being hammered 5-0 by Spurs. He immediately exonerated his players of any blame holding himself personally accountable for the loss due to his error in tactical judgement.
Rather than letting the team stew over a defeat and allow it to puncture their self-esteem he instantly relieved the pressure on their shoulders by directing the attention towards his error. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of a poor performance he'll always emphasise the positives in order to protect the existing belief built up in the dressing room. Even if a player has a bad game Pardew never lets it dominate an interview.
He's a calculated manager that understands the detrimental effect criticism could have. The enthusiastic support and reassurance he regularly provides has clearly resonated with the squad. The players know Pardew trusts them to fulfil his ambitions and that is a massive confidence booster for anyone running low on faith.
With Newcastle on the threshold of a European return Pardew's man-management abilities will be sternly tested on the continent. But for now he can sit back and bask in the knowledge that his motivational methods have guided the Magpies back into the big time.
You can follow Jak on Twitter at @kajynnep.