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Wonga deal brings smile back to Pardew
NEWCASTLE UNITED have struck the biggest commercial deal in the club's history with payday loan company Wonga and manager Alan Pardew thinks the controversial £32m agreement will lead to long term progress.
At a press conference at the Premier League outfit's training complex yesterday afternoon, both Newcastle and Wonga explained how the controversial contract will boost the team, youth academy and its community work - as well as renaming the stadium, St James' Park.
There has been an outcry from MPs, councillors and sections of Newcastle supporters about the decision to have Wonga - whose interest on payday loans calculates at one per cent a day - across the famous black and white shirts.
But the deal itself, which is due to start at the beginning of next season, will strengthen the brand and help the club to continue to move forward in its attempts to challenge with the Premier League's biggest clubs.
Wonga's decision to pay extra for the naming rights but revert the stadium back to its traditional name, St James' Park, has also heartened Pardew.
Since November last year the traditional home of the Magpies has been branded with owner Mike Ashley's retail company, Sports Direct, until naming rights were found. The arrangement with Wonga, however, means Pardew's hopes have been fulfilled.
"It's emotive for me, the naming of the stadium. The one thing I did say is that I would like the sign back up, even if it is dented still! They were happy with that," said Pardew, aware that Wonga are also the main sponsors of Blackpool and Heart of Midlothian.
"We don't want a new sign, we want the old one back up. That's the sort of thing for me, for the fans, that we love - the romantic side of football. That's the big news from today.
"The second part of it is the money, if I'm honest. Can I improve the team? And thirdly, Wonga's involvement at Blackpool buoys me a little because if our fans do have any fears then they should speak with Blackpool fans.
"Wonga's involvement at Blackpool, I think, has improved the club. They want to be involved. They want to try things, some we might not like, some we might like. They want to be involved in the academy, the foundation, that's all good for the academy. You can't knock that."
He added: "The outstanding thing for us is to have that commitment from Wonga to take the club forward. We all know it is a tough market and this is a fantastic company we have with us. The fact they will rename the stadium St James' Park is absolutely brilliant news for our fans. I am thoroughly delighted with that."
The backlash from outside the corridors of St James' Park is likely to continue in the coming days, but the reality is that Ashley has struck a deal he feels will also help the club become stronger in the top-flight.
Beneath the figures that will be highlighted in the coming years when Newcastle deal in the transfer market in fees and wages, Wonga's commitment will see them invest at least £1.5m in two of the club's most important projects.
The aim is that the funding, according to the official club statement, will help to "transform its academy in to one of the leading centres of youth development in the country".
Coming just days after academy graduate Shane Ferguson made another appearance for Newcastle when he started at left-back against Manchester United, Pardew thinks Newcastle's future will be even brighter with the right investment.
"Ferguson has proven there is a route to the first team," he said. "When we came up against the biggest team this year so far he got a game. That shows to our Under-10s who have a game on Sunday that they have a route.
"You have to have strong competition, we have to show we have the right coaches and that £1.5m will help with that. It is not easy, trust me, to get money for the academy and this deal will help make sure that happens and the academy can get stronger and stronger."
Newcastle's decision to end their contract with Virgin Money early and swap to Wonga follows last week's confirmation that Pardew and his coaching team have signed eight-year deals to stay with the club.
The Newcastle boss said: "I like to think we have a good management team here, we have good finance coming in to the club and actually that stability, maybe, is one of the attractions for this sponsor. Who knows? You don't know. It does go hand in hand and sometimes good news can follow good news.
"I'm not a business and I'm not party to what goes on to a degree. The changing of the stadium name did take some of the wind out of our sails last season. I am an emotional football person and that hurt me, it hurt our fans.
"Today I have to say I have got a nice smile on my face, even though we got beat 3-0 only a couple of days ago. The smile has helped."
Pardew, meanwhile, revealed the team should also be boosted by the return to action of Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Tim Krul for the trip to Sunderland on Sunday, October 21. He said: "I would put them at 70-30 or 80-20. Somewhere in between."