Football: Breaking the Stranglehold

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Pardew cals on his West Ham side to end monopoly of big clubs by winning today's FA Cup final against Liverpool

There is more than the FA Cup at stake for Alan Pardew today. The West Ham United manager believes his team can strike a blow for the rest of the Premiership against "the blue riband blubs cleaningup" if they can lift the trophy.

Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, his team's opponents at the Millennium Stadium, are so far ahead in terms of revenue and spending power at present that it is becoming increasingly difficult to compete and challenge for major honours, Pardew said.

"Someone needs to come out and take football away from where it is going at the moment," Pardew declared in an interview with The Independent. "The Champions' League, of course, is accelerating that. Every year they get twice as much money as every Premier League team. We have the opportunity to stem the tide.

"For us we have the chance of winning the first FA Cup outside that group of teams since I can't remember when. When was the last time? You ask anyone in football and it's the same. Someone has to break it and I hope to God it's us."

Pardew also believes he can make a statement on behalf of other English managers by becoming the first since Joe Royle in 1995, when Everton pionship teams. When I was in the Championship I was told he wouldn't come and watch Jer-main [Defoe] because he was in the Championship."

Pardew likes to explore the "psychological side" of football. He pores over biographies and is a great fan of Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the American football team, the Green Bay Packers. Indeed, he compares the "working-class roots" of the Packers and West Ham. "It's abig side of the game that's not worked on," Pardew says. "For footballers half their brain isn't stimulated enough. You hear [Jose] Mourin-ho talking about, 'Well we played well but we didn't think'. I know exactly what he means.

"My mind works like that. I like to be a bit left-field, a bit innovative and sometimes you can get criticised and I've had my share," Pardew says. Before the play-off final of 2004 he produced T- shirts referring to West Ham as the "Original Academy", an allusion to their nickname as the "Academy of Football" In defeat it only reminded the fans of what had been lost and backfired horribly. "I've done all sorts," he says. "Some have worked, some haven't. Some are motivational, some are things which will help us win games. I say things in the press to try and determine a result. All managers do that."

It took the West Ham fans some time to chant his name. Maybe, and especially after the defeat to Palace in Cardiff in 2004, they saw him as the embodiment of what was going wrong at the club. He was at the sharp end. Unfairly, he was also blamed for the sale of players, even though he was fashioning an exciting, young and largely English team. But he was not a Billy Bonds or Harry Redknapp. "It's difficult for me to assess because I'm very different from all the other managers they have had and maybe they've had to get used to that," Pardew says. "I'm different in my approach and I also don't say things for the benefit of saying them. Maybe they think it's a little bit bland, a little bit boring."

Indeed, he is somewhat puzzled by the focus on the manager in modern football. …